Thailand’s Supreme Patriarch Grants Audience to VP Kamala Harris

Benjamin Rujopakarn

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The Supreme Patriarch of Thailand granted an audience with US Vice President Kamala Harris, thanking her for her attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week (AELW) and offering wise words in tumultuous times.

Harris had been leading the U.S. delegation to the AELW that took place in Bangkok from November 18th–19th, 2022.

An auspicious encounter

Despite her packed itinerary, Harris had the opportunity to meet with the Supreme Patriarch, Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatayana (Ambaro), at the royal temple of Wat Ratchabophit. He thanked her for attending the APEC summit and taking the time to pay her respects at the temple.

“The US vice president’s visit can be seen as fostering US-Thailand relations to ensure they continue from generation to generation,” the Supreme Patriarch said.

The Supreme Patriarch also showed Harris a proverb inscribed above the door of the main ordination hall by King Rama V, which translates as “The unity of the people of all diverse groups will bring about prosperity and success.”

The Vice President said she was honored by the meeting and has “deep respect for the religious traditions here in Thailand,” adding that “in a multicultural society, if we have the opportunity to study with each other, we will be able to accept differences and live together happily.”

An audience with the head of the Buddhist order (Sangha) of the Kingdom bears extraordinary religious and cultural significance in Thailand. At the royal temple, the meeting took an additional symbolic gesture.

Built in 1869 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, Wat Ratchabophit is renowned for its multicultural architecture, with a gilded pagoda built in Sri Lankan style and an ordination hall with an exterior of exquisite Thai architecture and an interior of Western-inspired design.

The base of its principle Buddha image, Phra Buddha Angkhirot, contains the ashes of several monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty, including King Rama III. It was during the reign of King Rama III and the presidency of Andrew Jackson that Siam and the United States signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, marking the beginning of their diplomatic ties.

Passing the torch in uncertain times

Buffeted by crisis after crisis, Thailand’s host year has been anything but straightforward. And yet, in a testament to its will and spirit of diplomacy, the country has been able to thread the needle to achieve its three key deliverables:

1. Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) Agenda Work Plan 2023–2026 to take forward the refreshed conversation on FTAAP in the post-COVID context and help build capacities of economies to better prepare for next generation trade issues;

2. the Safe Passage Taskforce’s recommendations on how APEC’s safe passage work should be carried forward to continue building resilience in the region’s travel infrastructure against future disruptions; and

3. the adoption of the Bangkok Goals on BCG Economy, as APEC’s first comprehensive goals on sustainability and inclusivity agendas, which focus on four key areas: climate change mitigation, sustainable trade and investment, environmental conservation, and waste management.

As the incoming host economy for the 2023 APEC summit, the United States is keen to present itself as an economic partner to the Indo-Pacific region.

“Through our actions, our investments, and the principles that we stand for each and every day, the Biden-Harris Administration has proved that there is no better economic partner for the Indo-Pacific than the U.S.,” said Harris in a post on her Facebook Page.

VP Harris at the APEC handover ceremony on November 19th, 2022.
VP Harris at the APEC handover ceremony on November 19th, 2022. Source: APEC 2022 Thailand Facebook Page

On the selection of San Francisco as the host city for the 2023 APEC Leaders’ Meeting, Harris states:

“During our host year, the United States will continue to focus on sustainable economic growth, building on the strong foundation Thailand has set in 2022. In particular, we will work with APEC economies to make new sustainability and decarbonization commitments.”

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Benjamin Rujopakarn

Ben has worn several hats in broadcast television and radio news programs, culminating in his role as Head of Content at Bangkok-based digital marketing agency PAPER & PAGE (Thailand) Co., Ltd. and Editor-in-Chief of Thailand NOW. Though he has extensive experience in media communications, Ben holds degrees in marine science and molecular biology from UNSW and UT Dallas, respectively.

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