US Chargé d’Affaires Michael Heath bids a fond farewell to Thailand
CDA Farewell Op-ed by US Embassy Bangkok Chargé d’Affaires Michael Heath
As I conclude my tour as Chargé d’Affaires of the United States of America in Thailand, I am proud of the tremendous progress made in Thai-U.S. relations as we navigated challenges and explored new opportunities. My family and I have grown to love Thailand over our multiple tours here and will miss the warmth of the people, the richness of the culture, and the diversity of the food.
First assigned to Thailand as an entry-level diplomat in 1995, I have had the privilege to represent the United States in a country that I greatly admire. Having traveled from Chiang Rai to Yala, from Mae Sot to Ubon Ratchathani, and many places in between, I have witnessed the extraordinary breadth and depth of the U.S. relationship with Thailand.
In the economic sphere, the United States is Thailand’s largest export market, and our bilateral trade continues to grow rapidly— nearly 23% between 2020 and 2021 – and support the Thai economy during the stresses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. American firms have long been among the largest foreign investors in Thailand, and, now, more and more Thai firms are investing in the United States, deepening the economic ties between our countries. Our nations signed the Memorandum of Understanding to Promote Supply Chain Resilience in July, which will ensure access to critical goods for both of our peoples in the global marketplace.
Further, our green-oriented economic ties through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity and our roles as back-to-back hosts for APEC provide an opportunity for expanded climate-centered policies, investment, and leadership in the region. As the first country to join the U.S.-led Clean Energy Demand Initiative, Thailand unlocked billions of dollars of potential U.S. investment and joined a forum that connects climate experts and establishes innovative public-private partnerships. These are all essential components to realizing Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model and our shared goals toward net-zero carbon emissions.
Public health is another area where our bilateral cooperation has global ramifications. The United States and Thailand have worked together for 60 years to address critical public health issues, developing medicines to treat malaria and other infectious diseases. Our partnership has saved countless lives through research, treatment breakthroughs and, most recently, through the public health response to Covid-19. We were proud to have donated 2.5 million doses of safe and effective U.S. Covid-19 vaccines, which the Royal Thai Government distributed to all residents of Thailand on an equal basis.
My time in Thailand has also shown me the critical importance of our security partnership. This year, we reaffirmed the foundations of the U.S.-Thai treaty alliance and marked the 41st iteration of Cobra Gold, the longest-running and one of the largest multinational military exercises in the world. Participants in Cobra Gold and other U.S.-Thai military exercises have been on the frontlines of disaster and humanitarian responses such as the 2004 tsunami and the 2018 Wild Boars cave rescue.
This past year alone we had four U.S. Cabinet-level visits, which culminated with the historic signing of the Thailand-United States Communiqué by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. Reflecting our mutual interests in an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, sustainable, and inclusive, the Communiqué outlines the future of our relationship working together to promote free expression and democratic institutions and to cooperate in law enforcement, cybersecurity and technology, the digital economy, and people-to-people exchanges. I am confident that many years from now, the next generation of Americans and Thais will continue to benefit from our special relationship.
The future of the U.S.-Thailand relationship is bright. Thailand is a leader in the region, and I am confident it will continue to model— through action— our shared values of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and transparency. Together we will resist the threat of authoritarianism in the region and throughout the world.
My wife Michelle and I greatly enjoyed our personal engagements with the Thai people. We look forward to next year’s celebrations of our 190 years of friendship. Looking further ahead to 2027, we also anticipate a grand commemoration of the 100th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great’s birth in the State of Massachusetts.
I am pleased to know that planning for these milestones will be led on our side by the distinguished diplomat Robert Godec, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last month as our Ambassador-designate to Thailand.
I leave the bilateral relationship in very good hands and am assured that the United States and Thailand will always remain great friends, partners, and allies.
US Embassy Bangkok Chargé d’Affaires Michael Heath