Expat Life recently attended a Climate Change debate that was organised by the Ambassador of Morocco and the Dean of Chulalongkorn University Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana.
It was of so much interest to so many of our readers that we decided to feature the subject and devote this issue to it and similar subjects. We managed to get some of the speakers that day to write in this issue but it is a subject very dear to the heart of the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Moroccan Ambassador and the people of his country
How long have you been the Ambassador to Thailand?
I arrived in Thailand for the first time in April 2013 and presented my credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI of Morocco to the Kingdom of Thailand in December 2013 to His Majesty King Rama X at that time His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. I am also accredited as Ambassador concurrently to the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
It is an honour and a privilege to be appointed as the Moroccan Ambassador to Thailand. I do believe that my appointment reflects the strength of Morocco and Thailand relations at their highest level. I was very pleased as I have always been interested in SE Asia and how I can contribute to building bridges between the two kingdoms.
Did you arrive to Thailand from home, or were you posted somewhere else before?
This is my first assignment as Ambassador after serving as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Moroccan Embassy in Tokyo from 1998 to 2004.
I came from the capital city Rabat where I was Director-General of Human Resources Department, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and the Moroccan Expatriates in Rabat. Since joining the Ministry in 1981, I have held a number of positions in Rabat including Chief of Managing Human Resources Services, Counsellor, Minister Counsellor, Chief of Diplomas Recognition and Exams Division, Chief of Regulation and Litigation Services and Chief of Regulation and Planning Division.
Where are you born and brought up?
I was born, raised and received my education in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. In 1981, I got my Bachelor Degree from the National School of Administration in Rabat and in 1991, I obtained my Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Maine in the United States of America.
At which age did you decide you wanted to become a diplomat?
At quite a young age, I dreamed of being a diplomat who could serve his country. I recall I realised that I was fascinated by abroad, by foreign affairs, and by diplomacy in general. I love interacting with people, exchanging ideas and reaching out to others. I decided quite early on that I was going to become a diplomat.
Do you have more diplomats in your family?
How do you look at Thailand today? Have you had any obstacles since you arrived?
Thailand is one of the great development success stories with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction and I do believe that Thailand is moving forward in all aspects towards. Thailand is the land of smiles and smiling means optimism and believing in a promising future. Over the long term Thailand will continue to move forward and grow, and with the ambitious 4.0 plan, it is set to become a developed hub in this region.
To answer the second part of the question, I have to say that it’s not my first posting in Asia, actually I served as a Deputy Head of Mission in Tokyo as I said. So in Bangkok, it’s been an easy adjustment to life. Also, my wife is from Japan and it does help, as does an understanding of culture and history of Asia and SE Asia. So there is a sense of belonging in returning to Asia, especially that I’m also Ambassador to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar, I feel very much at home in SE Asia.
Do you see any similarities between your country and Thailand?
Let me say that Morocco and Thailand are similar in various areas particularly both are ancient rooted kingdoms. At a crossroads of the African and the European continents, the Kingdom of Morocco has been, for centuries, a meeting point for the arabo-islamic culture and civilisation as well as a land of tolerance, dialogue and openness. Morocco is a land of spiritual diversity and fraternity respecting differences and I can say that Thailand is in a similar situation. It’s located in the heart of SE Asia, and is a mosaic of diversity and culture, with rich heritage and tradition, but it has also adapted and embraced the rapid change brought about by globalisation.
Do you have children? What age and where do they go to school?
I’m married to Akiko a Japanese national since 1990. We have two sons: Ryan 27 and Kenzo 12 years old. Kenzo was here in Bangkok until January 2019. Now he’s in Tokyo. When he was in Bangkok, he attended Regent’s International School Bangkok. Ryan studied at the University of Waseda and now whilst he is working he is pursuing a MBA in Tokyo.
How do you look upon your work here? What does an average day look like?
Morocco and Thailand established diplomatic relations in 1985. The two kingdoms have continuously developed and strengthened their cordial and constructive ties in the various fields of mutual interest, namely political, economic and socio-cultural areas. There are many challenges that we are facing, but there is much more opportunities for our people, and I am confident that the future is better.
In 2020, we will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Kingdom of Thailand. A series of celebration events will be organised both in Morocco and in Thailand throughout this year.
As I always say, there is no normal day for an Ambassador but my primary duties are keeping a close daily direct contact with leaders and officials from the four countries I am accredited to for the purpose of developing and maintaining positive and good relations. Each day is very different to the other. The first thing when I arrive at my office is to meet with my team. The diplomats at the Embassy are multi-skilled, polyvalent and interchangeable. We share information and work together closely. We get together to discuss and exchange views on political, economic and cultural events, how far we are in implementing our action plan, what we have to do in the coming days, what are our assignments, if there are any functions we should attend and so on. Our motto is ‘the impossible should be done in the day, miracles may take a little more time’.
As every Ambassador, I assume you have some goals you really would like to reach/fulfil before you leave Thailand. What are they?
My main priority is to maximise the trade and investment opportunities between Morocco and Thailand. We have already had some good results over the last six years, but there’s significant scope to enhance our bilateral services and investment relationship. Morocco is encouraging direct maritime lines, and building a strong logistics chain between Morocco and Thailand as a platform for exports to Africa which would allow partners from Thailand to benefit from the legal arsenal between Morocco and Africa, but also with countries linked by FTAs. I have to say also that we are making a favourable business climate, providing a legal framework for the protection of competition, consumers and intellectual property, and finally we are promoting partnerships and exchanges between the Moroccan and Thai business communities, through visits and participation in sectorial and commercial conferences and exhibitions.
Have you travelled around Thailand?
I have already visited many parts of the kingdom but I want to explore more of Thailand’s rural regions, especially to understand Thailand’s rich history and culture. I am really fascinated by His late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s “sufficiency economy philosophy” and the royal projects he initiated. Each time I travel I am impressed by the hospitality and generosity of the local people and I am struck by how much fun everyone seems to be having here in Thailand. Of course, people have fun everywhere. But in Thailand it seems to be different. The Thais have elevated fun to a philosophy, a way of life. I intend to travel as much as possible to discover more the countless islands in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
Until now, what is your favourite destination in Thailand?
My favourite destination is Thailand as a whole. The country offers a large choice of destinations. I am lucky, I have visited provinces from the North to the South and from the East to the West. After more than six years, I am still impressed by the diversity of landscapes and the warm welcome of the Thai people.
When you have a day off, what do you prefer to do? Do you have any special hobbies?
My hobbies and my passion are to worthily represent and serve my country, connect and bring our people together.
How many of your country folk are living in Thailand?
We don’t have a large community compared to our other countries living in Europe, Africa, North America or in the Middle East, but we have highly skilled profiles bringing their contribution to the development of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Why did Morocco became one the favourite’s destinations for the Thai people?
With an area of 710,850km2, bordered by 3,500 kilometres of coastline and crossed by various mountain ranges, Morocco is characterised by an incredible diversity of people and landscapes. Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa, Morocco is cut by the various fingers of the Atlas Mountains and the lone range of the Rif Mountains in the North and the Sahara desert in the South. These characteristics give Morocco an aerial fingerprint unlike any other in Africa. Morocco has become one of the preferred destination for Thais, thanks to on one hand to the 2020 tourism vision initiated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI which set, amongst others, an objective of making Morocco one of the top 20 touristic destinations in the world. This is also on the other hand thanks to the contribution of the Thailand Travel Agents Association (TTAA), which is linked, since September 2016, by a Memorandum of Understanding with the Moroccan National Tourist Office. Together we are implementing the necessary measures to encourage the National Tourist Offices, Transport Companies and tourism professionals in Morocco and the ASEAN countries, to cooperate more and to make travel to Morocco a wonderful experience for the ASEAN people. By the way, Morocco offers a wide range of options for a variety of travellers, whether budget, middle-range, or luxury oriented.
I can say that hospitality in Morocco is legendary and people are more open-minded than ever, besides the Kingdom of Morocco is a safe place to visit characterised by its coexistence, openness and tolerance. I can mention a handful of regions that make Morocco such an attractive destination: Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Rabat, Dakhla, Laayoune, Merzouga, Agadir, Ifrane, Oujda, Casablanca etc.
Do your country and Thailand have any exchange programmes for students today?
Every year Morocco grants several scholarships to Thai students to enable them to pursue their studies in the kingdom. I am very pleased to note that on 12th July 2018, Morocco and Thailand signed in Rabat a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation and partnership in education, higher education and scientific research. The signing of this first memorandum is part of the consolidation of the excellent and distinguished bilateral relations between Morocco and Thailand. This will allow young Thais to study in Morocco thanks to the scholarships offered by the Moroccan government in several fields. The Memorandum of Understanding included several programmes such as the exchange of information and publications on issues related to education, including pedagogies, teaching methods, the exchange of teachers, students, and experts.
Moreover, recently and for the first time in SE Asia region, His Majesty the King Mohammed VI, graciously offered the opportunity for six preachers from Thailand to study and train in the The Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates (Religious Preachers).
If you could choose your next destination, where would you like to go?
My focus now is my duties here in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. My next destinations are any parts of these countries that I have not yet got a chance to visit.
Any memory from Thailand that you’d like to tell us, and awkward situation, a fun moment, etc.?
I was going to attend a farewell reception of a departing CEO, my plane took off but after 15 minutes, one of the engines blew out and we had to return. I took another plane and could arrive on time. During my speech I said to the audience that today we nearly had two farewells – one for the CEO and one for me if the worst-case scenario had happened.
Do you regularly meet up with your community?
Frequently, we gather at various occasions, like the celebration of our Throne Day on 30th July or during the cultural events that we organise here in Bangkok. We are in constant contact with our community to defend, protect their rights and interests and provide assistance if needed.
What do you believe is your most important task as Ambassador?
My important task is to represent, defend and ensure the interests of my country and the Moroccan community and promote people-to-people oriented diplomacy. With my team, for example, we are working to increase the number of scholarships for students from Thailand and ASEAN countries, we are promoting academic cooperation between Moroccan universities and their counterparts from Thailand as well as encouraging exchange programmes for Moroccan and Thai students. Another aspect is also to promote people-to-people connectivity through tourism, culture, trade and investments.
What else should you like the expat community to know about your efforts?
I believe we should definitely make ourselves better known in Thailand and in SE Asia. One of our great assets is stability: political stability, security, as well as a sound and open economy. All these are important and not necessarily sufficiently known. In 2016, Morocco acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) of ASEAN. In this regard, let me say that The Kingdom of Morocco and ASEAN member states share the same values and principles, based on peace, moderation, tolerance, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of states. The Kingdom of Morocco under the wise guidance of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, is keen to establish even stronger, solid, effective and solidarity-based South-South and win-win cooperation with the ASEAN community. This comprehensive approach for partnership through South-South cooperation demonstrates Morocco’s commitment to enhance regional engagement with the ASEAN countries as stated by His Majesty. Conscious of the active and constructive role that both Morocco and ASEAN play in their respective regions, the Kingdom of Morocco is willing to make the ASEAN benefit from its accumulated experience and solid ties with African partners and to further enhance these relations based on potentials offered within their geographic strategic neighbourhood. It is a great opportunity to Moroccan and Thai investors. Especially, in sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture, fisheries, health, tourism and industry. Morocco has become a gateway for investment in Africa and Thai companies should benefit from its position and role in Africa. Morocco’s banks and financial institutions are present throughout Africa. The banking system is a way to build partnerships and joint ventures, and we can work together in this field. Also, Morocco’s automobile and aeronautics industries are doing well and there is a huge potential in these fields for Thai and ASEAN investors.
Last, but not least I would like to seize this opportunity to wish the Thai people and readers of Expat Life in Thailand albeit it belatedly a very happy and prosperous new year in 2020. I hope that together we start to appreciate the planet and enjoy the simple things in life.