Address by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad at a Farewarell Cocktail in Honour of Ambassador Bandhit (Joe) Sotpalalit of Thailand 22 November 2000

Your Excellency Ambassador Joe,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to be able to host this function tonight. On the other hand, it is with much sadness that we have to take leave of one of the most popular Ambassadors in South Africa.

Ambassador Sotipalalit, affectionately known as "Joe" leaves behind a rich legacy. In his term of office, we have witnessed a spectacular growth in bilateral contact and our economic relations. Thailand is South Africa’s biggest trading partner in ASEAN in 1999, and there is growing investments in South Africa.

We have also seen an increase in high-level visits with former President Mandela paying a state visit to Thailand in 1997 and Deputy President Zuma visiting Thailand in April of this year to attend the UNCTAD Conference where Thailand took over the reigns from South Africa as the new Chair. Important Thai visitors to South Africa have included Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, former Foreign Minister Prachuab Chaiyasarn and Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi. They have been followed by scores of other Ministers, provincial and business leaders and other dignitaries.

People-to-people contact has equally been consolidated. Not many here tonight are aware that the people of Bethlehem in the Free State Province, thanks to the Ambassador’s personal intervention and participation, have managed to establish one of the most successful and viable mushroom industries in South Africa.

As the Dean of not only the Asian but also the ASEAN Ambassadors, you have been a very effective representative as this Group continues to grow. In addition, you have also made many friends for Thailand in South Africa. This is borne out by the fact that more than 33 000 South Africans visited Thailand in 1999.

I think that I can also speak on behalf of all your colleagues in the diplomatic corps when I say that we will certainly miss your presence in our midst. I may suspect that your many golfing friends will equally mourn your departure.

But, as one of the most travelled Ambassadors in Pretoria, as you were accredited to ten countries in Southern Africa, I am equally sure that you will have earned enough frequent flyer miles to visit South Africa again in the not too distant future.

On the occasion of bidding fond farewell to Joe and Saijai, we also come to the end of the 1st year of the new Millennium and it is appropriate that we take cognicance of some key issues:

Globalisation – general elaboration

Millennium Summit

Rate of UNCTAD

Political Aspects

Middle East

Positive Aspects in Africa

African Parliament

Free Trade Agreement in SADC & COMESA

Local Government elections

Joke about USA elections

Please allow me therefore to wish you everything of the very best in your next assignment as the new Thai Ambassador to New Delhi.

May I propose that we raise a glass on our bilateral relations and wish you well.

Thank you and bon voyage!

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