How long have you been the Iranian Ambassador to Thailand?
I started my mission as Ambassador to Thailand in January 2016, so I have now been in Bangkok three years. I cover Myanmar and Laos as well.
Did you arrive to Thailand from home, or were you posted somewhere else before?
Normally when our diplomatic mission comes to end we go back to Tehran and after three years, diplomats would be appointed in a new mission. So, before moving to Thailand I was in Iran. I was Head of the 2nd department for CIS, which covered central Asian countries and I was National Secretary for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at the same time as well. I was in missions in Uzbekistan, Finland and Germany before coming to Thailand, but this is my first Ambassadorial assignment.
Where are you born and brought up?
I was born and brought up in Tehran, the capital of Iran.
At which age did you decide you wanted to become a diplomat?
After finishing high school, I went for military service and after that I entered the faculty of International Studies of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I started my diplomatic career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991 as a desk officer of the State of Pakistan at the age of 29. Thereafter I have served in a range of different positions in the Foreign Ministry.
Do you have more diplomats in your family?
No, I am the only person in my family who joined diplomatic life.
How do you look at Thailand today, have you had many obstacles in your way since you arrived?
I believe that Thailand is an important part of ASEAN and plays an effective role in the region. Thailand will chair ASEAN this year and that would have a significant impact not only for Thailand but for all of the 10 ASEAN countries. What has most fascinated me in the nearly three years of living in Thailand is the politeness and genteel nature of the Thai people. You get a sense of satisfaction and contentment, tolerance and patience. A peaceful coexistence exists amongst the people, regardless of their religious beliefs.
The relationship between Iran and Siam goes back to the Sassanid Empire era.
The first official Iranian political mission in Siam was established in 1686. In modern times, official diplomatic relations began in 1955 and during the history of relationship between the two countries; there has been never a sign of tension. The Islamic Revolution in Iran even made the bilateral relations stronger because of the ‘Look East Policy’ of Iran, in which SE Asia found a special position in expanding political and trade relations.
To answer your question regarding obstacles. I would like to mention ‘to tackle obstacles is the nature of diplomatic missions’ assignments which I have been faced with’. But it should be noted that it is not due to any problem, working with Thai authorities and as I mentioned, it is the nature of our duty that any diplomat should do his/her best to ease any difficulties and pave the way to enhance relations.
Do you see any similarities between your country and Thailand?
Iran and Thailand are both great nations with ancient civilisations, profound history and as well as unique capabilities, which can compliment each other in many fields. The people of the two countries enjoy many common Eastern cultural values such as hospitality, respect for the family, and so on, which is rooted in the rich and ancient history of the two nations.
Iran by more than 7,000 years of written history, is called the cradle of civilisation. It is easy to find the trace and the role of Iranians everywhere in the world as well as in SE Asia.
Regarding Thailand, I reference Sheikh Ahmad Ghomi, who is very well known nowadays in Thailand. He was an Iranian merchant and clergyman who came to Thailand in the 16th century and served as a sincere and trustful advisor to King Narai the Great. After more than 400 years of his passing away, he is still remembered as a well reputed person in Thailand and as a source of pride and honour for Iranians. He reached the highest ranking positions such as King’s advisor, Interior Minister, Finance Minister, Head of Custom and acted as Foreign Minister of Siam. He was appointed as Sheikh-al-Islam (supreme leader of the Muslim community) in Siam as well.
He died at age of 80 and was buried in Ayutthaya. His tomb now is located at the centre of Rajabhat University in Ayutthaya and his death anniversary is still commemorated gloriously after 400 years of his passing away. Nowadays there are two big and famous families of Muslims and Buddhists from his generation named as Ahmadchulay and Bunnag which are very well known and respected in Thailand.
Iran and Thailand furthermore to political and economic aspects of relations, have always paid specific attention to the cultural dimensions of the relationship as well. Due to the good knowledge and experience of Thailand, Iran is going to cooperate with this country to exploit its potential of tourism and in the hotel industries. Right now, there are four weekly direct flights by Iran’s Mahan Air between Tehran and Bangkok.
The cultural centre of our Embassy in Bangkok is very active. I invite everyone to enjoy the traditional Persian paintings there and participate in the Persian language courses.
Promoting better understanding between the Muslim and Buddhist communities is one of the key objectives of this centre as well. The centre so far has organised three rounds of dialog between Muslim and Buddhist individuals and organisations.
Buddhist leaders and monks from Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have also participated in the Dialogue.
I believe that through such initiatives it is possible to create better understanding between religions which ultimately can prevent horrible incidents like those befalling Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
Do you have children, what age and where do they go to school?
I have two sons that live in Iran. The eldest one is already married, but both are still university students.
As every Ambassador, I assume you have some goals you really would like to reach/fulfil before you leave Thailand?
I believe that relations between the two countries on the basis of common values, historical ties, mutual benefits and respect, have developed on a very positive trend and I am predicting a bright future of friendly and constructive relations and bilateral cooperation. Both sides have shown their strong will in further development of the relationship which is the main factor and inspiration in a bright and fruitful future. I hope that I will be able to fulfil my duty as Ambassador in the further flourishing of political and economic cooperation via preparing legislative basis and providing the necessary documents for the way ahead; Preparing the grounds for closer communications and interaction between the peoples of the two countries and prepare the grounds for further collaboration and cooperation between West and East Asia as well as between important regional bodies and international organisations such as ECO and ASEAN via joint efforts by Iran and Thailand, as two main players in the region and these regional organisations.
Have you travelled around Thailand?
Before arriving in this beautiful country, I was provided with a lot of useful information about travelling in Thailand by asking my predecessors as well as searching on the internet. During the last three years, I have visited many places, such as Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Koh Chang, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Nakhon Ratchasima to name but a few.
Until now what has been your favourite destination?
I should definitely say that everywhere in Thailand is beautiful. The rich culture, tolerant and friendly people and delicious food, are all good reasons to travel from North to South and West to East in Thailand.
When you have a day off, what do you like to do? Do you have any special hobby or pastime?
I like walking with my wife as just ordinary anonymous people. I enjoy communicating with the people that we meet, people watching and acquainting myself with Thai culture. reading books and articles and sometimes I play tennis and meet colleagues and their families.
Do your country and Thailand have an exchange programme for students?
We have a cultural centre in Bangkok that holds Persian language and Iranian traditional Persian paintings for Thai students. Many Thai students have studied in Iran and know the Persian language and they really are a treasure for boosting cooperation and interaction between the two countries in state, popular or private sectors levels.
If you could choose your next post and destination, where would you like to go?
I have really not thought about it, but maybe another mission in SE Asia. It is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decision and I will go where they send me. I am a career diplomat so anywhere in the world, can be my next destination
Any memory from Thailand that you’d like to tell us, an awkward situation, a fun moment, etc.?
What has most fascinated me over the last three years is the politeness and genteel nature of the Thai people. You get a sense of satisfaction and contentment, tolerance and patience, of peaceful coexistence among the people regardless of their religious beliefs. I very much enjoy walking around Thailand and communicating with the people. I believe that this tolerance, patience and peaceful coexistence, has roots in the rich culture of Thailand’s society. The mentality and way of thinking of the Thai authorities, particularly the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej as well as His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun the new King of Thailand. I refer to the holding of the Molud-Al-Naby ceremony (commemorating the birth of the Prophet Mohammad, peace upon him), which was attended by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, as well as several Eftar (fast-breaking) ceremonies in the Holy month of Ramadan with joint participation of many Buddhists. These include ceremonies organised by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Do you regularly meet up with your community?
Thailand is one of the main travel destinations for Iranian tourists in SE Asia. Around 130,000 Iranians visit Thailand every year. Direct flights from Tehran to Bangkok make it easy to travel to Thailand. Also there are Iranian families that have lived and worked in Thailand for many years and they are part of Thai society. I meet them in some Iranian ceremonies, specially in NOWROUZ celebration which is starting of new year in Iranian calendar on the 21st of March. We are here to support our fellow Iranians.
To conclude I would like to invite the Thai people and other foreigners who live here to visit my beautiful, spectacular and safe country Iran. Iranians are
infinitely hospitable and believe that the guest is a “Friend of God”. Last year, the former Ambassador of Italy, spouse of the Colombian Ambassador Madam Astrid Garcia (Amaya) and the Deputy Head of the Brazil Mission in Bangkok, travelled Iran and their memories are worthy to be heard and prove my claim.
Iranians enjoy a unique identity different from any other race in the region.