French premier hails historic ties with Thailand
French is not just a language of history but also a language of the future with many Francophone nations in Africa, a continent which is now growing economically, said Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault yesterday.Ayrault, who was speaking in Thammasat University yesterday while on an official visit to the Kingdom said there are 220 million French speakers across the world today with a projection that by 2050 that number could double.
Meanwhile, he said, there were 1,000 Thai students currently in France - a figure that could aksi rise.
"France is prepared to welcome more Thai students," he said.
The premier said that on top of 20,000 French expats in Thailand, some 600,000 French tourists visit the Kingdom annually. Thailand is also France's second-largest trade partner in Southeast Asia.
Other bonds connecting France and Thailand include both nations' cinematic tradition as well as their fame as tourist destinations.
Speaking to an audience of students, Aryault said it was important for the new generation to be committed to "idealistic and utopian causes".
He said both Thailand and France would have to tackle global issues such as climate change.
Ayrault, who stood in front of the French and European Union flags, also tried to calm concerns about the euro economic crisis, saying he was sure the EU would weather the storm.
The PM also noted that Siam was the first Southeast nation to establish diplomatic relations and an embassy at the Court of King Louis XIV in the 17th century when King Narai dispatched a Siamese mission. "The bond is still intact today."
Eugenie Merieau, a French researcher on Thai politics based in Bangkok, told The Nation Ayrault's visit symbolised a growing recognition of the importance of Southeast Asia.