Expat Life were privileged to sit down this month with H.E. Mr. Evgeny Tomikhin the Russian Ambassador to Thailand.
How long have you been in Thailand Ambassador?
I arrived in the Land of Smiles just before the end of 2018. So it has been 8 months or so for me as the Russian Ambassador to Thailand.
Did you arrive direct from Russia or were you posted elsewhere before?
I arrived from Moscow, where I was an Ambassador-at-Large for the last three years, mostly dealing with Russia-China relations.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and brought up in Leningrad (currently known as St. Petersburg). Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject (a federal city).
Situated on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, it was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on 27 May 1703. During the periods 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the capital of Imperial Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow, which is about 625 km (388 miles) to the South East.
Saint Petersburg is often considered Russia’s cultural capital.The historic centre of Saint Petersburg and related groups of monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. Many foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and businesses have offices in Saint Petersburg.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a diplomat?
I decided to be a diplomat after graduating from university.
Did you follow anyone in to diplomacy or are there any others in your family in the service?
I did not follow anyone but now my eldest son is serving as a diplomat in the Russian Embassy in China.
How do you see Thailand today and have you encountered any obstacles since you arrived?
Thailand is one of the oldest friends of Russia in SE Asia. Our cordial relations go back to 19th Century. I think Thailand is a wonderful country, both for work and leisure. I had travelled here a lot with my family long before I was appointed as the Ambassador to Thailand. Since my arrival in Bangkok I have received nothing but warm hospitality and support from my Thai colleagues at the Embassy and our special friends – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other ministries and agencies, scholars and the business community. Particularly those with business interests or links with Russia.
Are there any similarities between your country and Thailand?
I think the main similarities are good kind-hearted people of our two countries and the rich national cuisine. Also, the beautiful and diverse nature of Thailand and Russia is worth to travel around.
Do you have children and if so what age are they and where are they now?
I have three sons. They are all grown up now. The youngest has just started at university here in Bangkok. By the way, I know I look young… but I am a grandpa already, I have two grandchildren.
What is your work like here and do you have such a thing as an average day?
Our office starts at 8:30am but naturally I start much earlier. It is not easy to present an “average day”. I have meetings with Thai politicians, my staff and friends, with colleagues from the diplomatic corps. We have a succession of different level delegations from Russia. There are events to attend most evenings – either to support other Ambassadors and Embassies or where I am invited to attend on behalf of my country. This plus the heavy traffic in Bangkok mean that sometimes I do not get back to my home until midnight…
As with every Ambassador I am sure that you have set yourself some goals before you leave Thailand – may I ask what they are?
It would be honest to say that every Ambassador wishes to strengthen the relations between his own country and the country of residence. Russian – Thai relations have been developing quite dynamically for the last several years, we exchange high-level visits both ways, have signed many important bilateral documents, successfully promoted mutual trade and investment and of course the number of tourists keeps growing to both countries. So, I guess my goal is to keep up and try and improve on the good work.
Have you had time to travel around Thailand yet?
I have already visited several provinces, including Phuket, Phang Nga, Chon Buri, Rayong and Samui Island. I hope I get more chances to see the different regions and visit many more of the islands of this beautiful country.
Do you have any favourite destinations so far?
One of my favourite destinations so far would be Samui Island. My family loves it very much. We have been there many times in the past. But I’m sure that there are many other places in Thailand which will become my favourite in the weeks, months, years to come.
If and when you have a day off from the job, what do you do – do you have any hobbies?
I like sport, culture and the arts, travelling. I like skiing, but sadly there is no snow in Thailand – so I must learn new interests to suit the climate. Summer sports activities for me include cycling and swimming. As a spectator, I am a great fan of football and ice hockey, the winter biathlon and volleyball. Cultural life is very important to my family and me, we like the theatre, different kinds of performing arts, museums, etc.
How many Russians do you estimate are in Thailand and when did it become a desirable destination?
We have a strong presence in places like Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai. We estimate that there are at least 10,000 Russians living more or less permanently across Thailand. Probably many more. As I mentioned, the total number of Russian tourist visitors reached 1.5 million last year. The Russian people discovered Thailand in the early 90s, but the real surge began in the mid 2000s. Thailand is a very friendly country to the Russian people and it is obviously much warmer here than all of our land mass – especially places like Siberia in December.
Does Russia have exchange programmes for students, engineers, etc?
Every year the Russian government provides a number of scholarships to Thai students who would like to continue their higher education in Russia. Of course, they have to go through a certain selection process. There is a special internet portal dedicated to it: “Russia.Study”. There are also some exchange programmes for Thai high-school students.
If you could choose your next destination where would it be?
The only destinations for me for the near future, will be the different cities and provinces in Thailand.
Memories of Thailand?
Traffic jams in Bangkok, good service and a large variety of services in the tourist industry.
Do you meet with your community in Thailand regularly?
Definitely, yes. We interact at every opportunity with the Russian community in Thailand, like the National Day reception or the 9th May (Victory Day) celebrations, traditional holy days like Christmas and Easter. The Embassy also promotes regular online communication, mainly through social networks where we have several official accounts.
What is your most important task as the Russian Ambassador in Thailand?
The most important task for me is to protect the rights and interests of Russian nationals in Thailand and to further promote Russian-Thai relations.