June 1, 2023
BANGKOK – Outgoing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha welcomed his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena in Bangkok on Wednesday, saying Thailand and Sri Lanka’s bilateral ties go as far back as over 700 years.
The Sri Lankan premier is in Thailand to attend the two-day celebrations marking Vesak or Visakha Bucha in Thai, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
Thailand is hosting the 18th United Nations Day of Vesak Celebration 2023 on the theme “Buddhist Wisdom Coping with Global Crises”, a subject Gunawardena is scheduled to speak on during the event.
More than 3,500 monks and religious figures are expected to arrive in Thailand to attend ceremonies that will be held in Bangkok and Ayutthaya on Thursday and Friday.
Once the ceremony is over, Prayut and Gunawardena are expected to discuss the Thailand-Sri Lanka free trade agreement, which should be finalised by next year.
Gunawardena has also asked Prayut to promote investment in the “Port City Colombo” project, saying Sri Lanka can profit from Thailand’s expertise in the hospitality industry.
Port City Colombo is a special economic zone and financial hub being built on the southern edge of the capital. The new city is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Also on the agenda will be discussions on coping with global geopolitical tensions as well as Sri Lanka’s ongoing problems.
Prayut said Thailand is ready to share its knowledge on subjects like public health, agriculture, tourism, the bio-circular-green economy initiative and other know-how that should help pull Sri Lanka out of its economic doldrums.
The country had been hit by acute shortages of essential goods, which sparked months of widespread protests and eventually ousted the governments of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Gunawardena is expected to return to Thailand at the end of this year to attend the BIMSTEC Summit.