FRANCE is looking forward to seeing the Thai government fulfil its commitment to holding a new general election within the next year in accordance with its road map to democracy, French Ambassador Gilles Garachon says.
The envoy made the remark while presiding over the French National Day reception at the Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel on Friday night. “We look forward to next year’s election returning an elected parliament,” he said during a press briefing.
Apart from this, Garachon chose to limit his remarks regarding Thailand’s political situation. He simply said that both Thailand and France were going through a “transition period” as his country’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, had only assumed office in May.
Under former president Francois Hollande, France was among the Western countries that condemned the ruling junta for staging the 2014 coup and called for an immediate return to democracy. While Macron has yet to make any political remarks regarding Thailand, his foreign policy in Asia, including Asean, is likely to remain strategic.
France joined the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia in 2007 before the European Union followed five years later.
At his press briefing, Garachon described France’s relations with Asean as “active, impressive and promising”. He noted the 27-billion euro (Bt1.04 trillion) trade between France and Asean countries in 2015, accounting for 13.7 per cent of trade between the European Union and Asean.
Infrastructure, education, know-how sharing and tourism were among areas of cooperation that Garachon said could be closer. France, which has had diplomatic relations with Thailand for 160 years, is the second largest exporter to Thailand with trade valued at 1.7 billion euros while Thai exports to France are worth 2.6 billion euros.
Thailand is France’s second largest partner in Asean, and there are 260 French companies doing business in Thailand. In June, France opened Station F, the world’s largest start-up centre with the capacity to support more than 1,000 start-up companies, which will be in line with the “Thailand 4.0” plan emphasising innovation and technology. On July 3, French and Thai private representatives signed agreements covering agriculture business, transport and infrastructure, Smart City projects, and renewable energy.
France also supports ongoing Free Trade Area dialogue between the EU and Asean.
Counter-terrorism measures were also an area of concern that France looked forward to developing with the international community, Garachon said.
“We have to encourage more data exchange to cope with the fast-adjusting terrorism and the transnational-crime threat,” he said. “We have to be ahead of them.”