Over the months of January and February 2018 the consulate was fairly active with consular assistance & support, supplying information and undertaking public diplomacy. There were 295 activities involving 146 hours of honorary consul involvement. This bi-monthly web-post covers highlights of my activity, some statistics on the scope and volume of service as well as upcoming events and information for general awareness.
Consular & Public Diplomacy Highlights
One of the functions of the Honorary Consul (who volunteers his time), among other duties, is to engage in public diplomacy by representing and promoting Australia. There are often invitations for events and ceremonies that provide this opportunity. While I can’t always attend every event the following highlights (in no particular order) some of the engagement during January and February:
Business Liaison – Sabai Sabai Retreat (Function Centre) – It’s the place to be according to their website. It was a business visit and I had an enjoyable afternoon at this venue in Mae On district outside Chiang Mai. It is operated by an Australian and his wife. Their large facility caters to group events such as weddings, corporate functions products launches, company seminars and training courses. On site modern accommodation, giant pool and large event hall are available. Thanks to Daniel and his wife for the introduction, coffee with great views and showing us around. You can check out their Facebook page for more details or check out this video.
Consular Corps Northern Thailand – The Australian Consulate participated in the a Consular Corps & Chiangmai Provincial Governors’ Office meeting – a late afternoon dialogue amongst about 30 people, held at Le Meridien Hotel, to discuss and share views on planning for World Fair 2018 to be held in conjunction with Lanna Expo in June, Thai Government agency coordination with consulates and the 2018 smoke season. A small reception followed and a chance to meet and chat in a less formal setting.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2018 – It was fun attending the grand opening event in Suan Buak Hard city park. It was a wonderful show of music, dance and a colourful ceremony that heralded the festival (2-4 Feb) commencement and end of the cool season according to the CM Governor’s remarks. Surprised to be invited on stage with others from the Consular Corp to be part of the opening special activity.
It was off to the parade the next morning to watch the colourful floats. Floral floats, marching bands, lovely Lanna costumes & cultural offerings – these were all on display this morning during the Chiangmai Flower Festival parade. A few pictures share what words can’t describe. The Consulate was honoured to be invited onto the reviewing stand, with other guests, at the start of the parade. This offered an excellent view of the opening ceremony fanfare and the passing parade images. Well done Chiangmai – great show.
CMU Economic Conference – At the invitation of the Faculty of Economics Chiang Mai University, the Bank of Thailand Northern Region Office and World Bank Thailand Office I attended their 6th annual conference at Chiang Mai University today. This conference focused on three topics that challenge and impact Thailand this year with expert speakers addressing: (1) “Opportunities and Challenges: Thai Economy amidst Trade, Investment, and Technology Trends” (2) “Life in Financial Technology (FinTech) Era” and (3) “Chiang Mai Smart City: Making Dream comes True”. Presentations on all topics were interesting and insightful. Thank you for the opportunity to listen, learn and meet professionals including more Thai/Australian Alumni from the University.
Bangkok Airway – In Appreciation Presentation – I was delighted to visit the Station Manager Bangkok Airways, Chiangmai airport, today to acknowledge a couple of his staff – Supervisor’s Ground Services and Ground Staff. The Consulate had been contacted by the airline and these staff helped considerably to provide support to an Australian who required consular assistance. The care and compassion show by staff was recognised by a letter of appreciation and memento from the Australian Embassy consular services. Thanks so much. I also want to acknowledge an Australian couple – Mary and Steve – who also supported the Consulate in dealing with this consular case. I recognised their efforts as well and we enjoyed a lovely lunch as part of the appreciation.
Australia Day 2018 -I got out and about to share Australia Day wishes in Chiangmai. Dropped into the Chiangmai Expat Club to offer an Aussie lucky draw gift pack. Had lunch with some Australian locals at the Downunder Pub & gave out Lamingtons for a treat. Then it was off to celebrations at Yummy Pizza Restaurant on the Canal Road in the evening. The Australian Honorary Consul Chiangmai joined a large group of Aussie’s and friends from other countries to have some fun. It was great offering some lucky “Australian themed” prizes from our Australia supporters – Rimping Supermarkets,(Aussie food/wine hamper); – The Elephant Parade (aussie flag elephant sculpture) and – the Australian Embassy (Australiana items & Lamingtons from the Consulate). There was a variety of treats on the menu like meat pies, sausage rolls, big Aussie burgers and more, Australian wine & other cool refreshments. Tony from Yummy belted out some live Aussie songs along with entertainment from great local band. Australian decorations helped the atmosphere for a fun way to enjoy a bit of “Australia Day in Chiang Mai”. The pictures tell the story. Appreciations to Tony at Yummy Restaurant for hosting the event.
Chaing Mai University’s (CMU) 54th Anniversary – I was pleased to be invited to join their celebration day and it was a great opportunity for the Consulate (myself and Khun Ace) to meet many Thai Australian Alumni and to enjoy participating. Chiang Mai University was founded in January 1964, under a Royal Charter granted by His Majesty, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. CMU was the first institution of higher education in the north, and the first provincial university in Thailand. I was welcomed to CMU by the Dean of the Law Faculty Assistant Professor Dr. Wisuttisak, an Australian Alumni, who obtained his Masters of Commercial Law and PHD in Business Law and Taxation in Sydney. He introduced me to Professor Emeritus Watanachai, M.D. Chairman of the CMU Council (who’s son went to university in Perth). His English was impeccable and an excellent guide to the history of CMU and the days ceremony. It was a pleasure to also meet Professor Emeritus Srisukri, M.D. Council Vice-Chairman & Acting President of CMU. Other guests included the Chief Justice of Region 5 Courts and the Head of the Chiang Mai Criminal Law Courts along with other CMU Council members.
As a guest I was introduced to those attending and invited to participate in a Buddhist monk ceremony that opened events, followed by ancient Lanna dances and music. CMU are active to retain and foster ancient Lanna Culture and an explanation from the Dean of this School of CMU was most interesting. This was followed by award presentations to many CMU academic staff for various achievements. A number of group photo’s were then arranged. Lunch followed and our table had 4 Thai Australian Alumni – I was approached by others to introduce themselves. We discussed the Alumni Association and the annual Chiang Mai Alumni event – there was clearly fond memories of time spent learning in Australia. CMU has a large Australian educated alumni who are now professors sharing their knowledge. Thanks CMU for your invitation to a wonderful and fun day and a chance to chat to Thai Australian Alumni.
Embassy Consular Outreach Program – this was held on 19 January at Le Meridien Hotel Chiang Mai from 09:00 to 15:00. The consulate facilitates the Outreach reception, queue system and administration duties. There were some 55 clients on the day for various notarial and passport services. This year the Outreach visits are planned every 6 to 8 weeks due to the demand for service in 2017. An Outreach was held on the 2 March and the next Outreach visit is planned on 6 April 2018.
Thailand Department of Foreign Affairs – The Director General Protocol met with members of the Northern Thailand Foreign Consular Corps in Chiang Mai to discuss a variety of issues of mutual interest. I was unfortunately unable to attend this meeting due to commitments with the Australian Embassy Consular Service Outreach Program that was in Chiang Mai on the same day.
Australian Emergency Passport – A new Australian emergency passport design was the reason to meet Chiang Mai Airport Thai Immigration Management to explain changes. I accompanied Australian Embassy consular staff and we learned that Thai Immigration Police Lt. Col. Pusadee had previously received a scholorship and spent time studying in Melbourne.
Royal Thai Police Region 5 – I had the honor to call on the Deputy Commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, Pol. Maj. Gen. Pittaya Siriraksa. We had a good dialogue, discussed Police support for a particular consular matter and other issues relating to Police and consular interaction.
Maejo University Chiang Mai – I had the pleasure to receive a delegation from Maejo University Chiang Mai at the Consulate. The visit was to bring good wishes for 2018 and to discuss the activities of the University, its specialities and exchange programs. I learned they have some 20,000 students and will have been operating for 85 years this November. I provided some information regarding Australia and our Universities and Endeavour scholarship scheme. Thank you Vice President University Council and International Relations, Assoc. Prof. Dr Weerapon Thongma
Republic of the Union of Myanmar – Attended the reception to recognise the 70th anniversary of Independence Day for the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and diplomatic relations with Thailand. The event was hosted by the Consul General of Myanmar in Chiang Mai with guests from the Government including the Governor, Diplomatic Corps and guests from the private sector.
Business Liaison – I had the pleasure of a visit from the Sales Director form Le Meridien Hotel to provide well wishes for the new year and to discuss plans for 2018 for consular service visits. He was kind enough bring along his own morning tea treat to share.
Statistics, those darn statistics – Scope of consular activity
Here is some data regarding the work and scale of activities covering the two month period of January and February 2018. While I have shared some of the public diplomacy activity above the work and involvement related to consular services is represented only by statistics, due to privacy reasons.
The month of January was extremely busy and involved 152 contacts & activities requiring 96 service hours. The client language mix was 78% English & 22% Thai. By comparison the month of February was somewhat more routine with 143 contacts & activities that involved 51 service hours with a client language mix of 69% English & 31% Thai. The methods of interaction with clients and the consulate over the period were mixed and involved:
- January – Phone 56%; Email 25%; Social media 1% and In person 18%
- February – Phone 59%; Email 30%; Social media 1% and In person 10%
The consulate work load involves a wide variety of matters such as providing advise and information in response to inquiries for notarial and passport services, visa inquiries, offering referrals or websites to the correct place for other services as well as attending to clients for consular assistance & supporting the Embassy in case management. The breakdown of Consulate activities & services for these two months are:
Consular support & passports: – 53% in Jan & 48% in Feb
Australian visa info: – 27% in Jan & 34% in Feb
Other & Information: 7% in Jan & 11% in Feb
Public diplomacy: 13% in Jan& 7% in Feb
Some of the consular assistance over the past few months involved visiting hospitalised Australians due to illness or accident (went to RAM, Suan Dok and Suanprung) and attending to an arrested person at a nearby Police station. In these cases it is often necessary to seek a privacy approval from a client in order to make contact with family or friends to inform them of the situation so they can provide assistance.
The Consulate uses social media (Facebook & twitter and dedicated websites) in order to disseminate & share information that may be helpful and/or interesting. These social media platforms activities for the month of January and February 2018 involved:
Websites: Total views of 1007 for the two consul websites during January and February, down somewhat from the previous two months (1,237 November and December):
719 – Australian Honorary Consul (tranquilinthailand.com)
288 – Australian Consulate – (Australianconsulatechiangmai.com)
Facebook pages: Facebook is where I post routine activity and this posting recaps some of these events. In the last month, February period, as an example, a total of 1351 users were reached over these two consulate Facebook sites – with 75 page views. This is somewhat a down tend – check out these links:
Google my Business – The consulate is listed on Google to make it easier to connect and through this platform people can locate the consulate website or make contact. For February 2018 there were 964 clients who searched for the consulate. Of these 40 requested directions – 26 visited the website & 20 called the Consulate.
Upcoming Activity and General Information
- Embassy Consular Service Outreach Program Chiang Mai
6 April 2018 at Le Meridien Hotel Chiang Mai for the next Outreach visit. For dates, details and information on notarial and passport services available please see this web-page link.
- Australian Education Fair by CP International Chiang Mai
10 March 2018 at U-Nimman Hotel Convention Centre 12 – 17:00 hours. I will be opening this event. If you know of Thai people interested in studying in Australia pass information onto them – see this website.
- Aussie Flag Elephant – Elephant Parade Thailand
Perhaps you have seen or heard of or visited the Elephant Parade stores around Chiang Mai or elsewhere in Thailand? – maybe you have seen some very large and colourful elephant statues around Chiang Mai? They now have in their product list an “Aussie Flag Elephant” that you can purchase – just visit one of their stores.
Elephant Parade® is a social enterprise and runs the world’s largest art exhibition of decorated elephant statues. Created by artists and celebrities, each Elephant Parade statue is a unique art piece. The life-size, baby elephant statues are exhibited in international cities and raise awareness for the need of elephant conservation.
Limited edition, handcrafted replicas and a select range of products are created from the exhibition elephants. 20% of Elephant Parade net profits are donated to elephant welfare and conservation projects.
To find out more please check out their website.
- Australian Student Study Abroad Guide – Thailand.
If you know of any Aussie students who might be interested to study in Thailand the Australian Department of Education has created this guide-book of information. Check it out at the study guide document below and share with anyone you know that might be interested.