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5 Jul, 2007 03:31

Thai Queen hands over handicrafts to Russia

The Queen of Thailand is continuing her 10 day visit to Russia. Queen Sirikit's trip is an important symbol, reconnecting the two nations' past royal links and glories. Russia sees the visit as a “powerful impetus to intensify co-operation” an

On Thursday the Queen of Thailand is meeting President Vladimir Putin. But her trip, which marks the 110th anniversary of Russian-Thai diplomatic relations, is not only about politics.

Regal in purple, Queen Sirikit began her visit in the heart of Moscow, where she was given a history lesson on Red Square. Her visit in itself is a historic event, which President Putin said will “open a new page in Russian-Thai relations, hoping to further strengthen them”.

The two nations have longstanding diplomatic links. An alliance began more than a century ago. The current King Bhumibol Adulyadej has family connections here. His great-grandfather spent time at the court of the Russian Emperor and was so impressed with the military traditions that he copied them. The Thai military uniform still resembles that of Russian imperialism.

Inside the Kremlin, tourists got a pleasant surprise when Queen Sirikit and her entourage turned up. But some were puzzled by her husband's absence. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is the world's longest reigning monarch, last year celebrating his 60th anniversary on the throne. He's so dedicated to his role, he's taken an oath never to set foot outside his country, so his wife does the sightseeing for him.

The Thai Queen's visit could do wonders for the development of tourism links. Thailand is a favourite holiday destination for Russian tourists. And the number of Thais coming to Russia is on the rise.

Her visit could also cement cultural relations. At Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery the Queen's has been getting a taste of Russian art, before she presents some unique Thai handicrafts to President Putin on Thursday.

Thailand is looking into the past to find tomorrow's answers on shaping more modern diplomatic relations. But Moscow has already decided the future. It's keen to expand its energy interests and Bangkok could lend a hand by becoming a regional hub for the distribution of Russian oil and gas.