Switzerland and Thailand established diplomatic relations in 1932. Relations between the two countries are based on the presence of Swiss companies that are well-established in Thailand, significant communities of Thai nationals in Switzerland and Swiss nationals in Thailand (which currently make up the largest Swiss community in Asia) and on tourism.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and Thailand established diplomatic relations in 1932. Switzerland enjoys considerable sympathy in Thailand, in particular because of its links with the Thai royal family. The late king, His Majesty Adulyadej Bhumibol (1927–16), spent his childhood and youth in Lausanne (1933–51).
Relations are primarily based on business and tourism. In addition, the two countries have conducted a regular political dialogue at deputy state-secretary level since September 2011.
Since 2012, all Swiss consular services have been provided through the regional consular centre in Bangkok, which is also competent for Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar.
Switzerland also cooperates with Thailand within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Switzerland has been a sectoral dialogue partner since July 2016. Thailand is one of the five founding states of ASEAN, which was established in 1967.
Economic and financial relations
Swiss consumer and luxury goods are highly valued in Thailand, as are Swiss machines and precision tools for use in the manufacturing industries. In 2017, Thailand was Switzerland’s second largest trading partner in South East Asia. Switzerland is Thailand’s 12th largest trading partner and 9th largest foreign investor.
In 2016, 118,000 Thai tourists visited Switzerland (+13.3% against 2015). In the same year, 208,967 Swiss tourists went to Thailand.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Thailand can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Through its humanitarian aid programme, the SDC has provided Thailand with support during natural disasters, such as the tsunami in December 2004 and the floods in 2011.
Two regional specialists in disaster risk reduction and disaster management have been based in Bangkok since 2013 to support SDC projects in South East Asia and the Pacific region and to respond rapidly to natural disasters in both regions. The two specialists are also helping ASEAN to strengthen its disaster risk management and rapid response capabilities.
Swiss nationals in Thailand
At the start of 2018, there were 9,568 Swiss nationals living in Thailand.
History of bilateral relations
The first documented contacts between Switzerland and Thailand date back to the 17th century. After touring the Kingdom of Siam, Swiss missionaries published accounts of the travels. In the 19th century, Swiss textile companies looked for new business opportunities in South East Asia.
The Kingdom of Siam acceded to the Universal Postal Union in Bern and the first Geneva Convention, which regulated the treatment of the victims of armed conflict, in 1895. In 1897, following the first visit to Switzerland by the King of Thailand, representatives of the two countries negotiated a treaty of friendship and trade, which was not signed until 1931. Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in Bangkok in 1932 and an embassy in 1949.
The two countries celebrated the 80th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic bilateral relations in 2012.