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France and Thailand

Bilateral relations

Thailand is historically France’s oldest partner in South-East Asia. In 2016, the two countries celebrated the 160th anniversary of their relations (the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Siam and France was signed on 15 August 1856). In 2019, France celebrates the 333rd anniversary of the first embassy of the Kingdom of Siam to France, led by Kosa Pan in 1686.

Minister of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne made a State visit to Thailand in February 2018. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited France in June 2018.

Thailand is the second-largest economy in the ASEAN and is France’s third-largest market within the ASEAN after Singapore and Malaysia (€1.9 billion in French exports). France is the fifth-largest European investor in Thailand (behind the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland) with a stock that stood at €2.1 billion at the end of 2017 – 1% of the country’s foreign direct investment. Around 280 French businesses are present in Thailand, mainly in the service industry. Thailand is the second-largest ASEAN investor in France (leading investor in industry), focusing on agrifood and industry sectors.

With more than 800,000 French tourists a year, Thailand alone receives half of the French tourists in the Asia-Pacific region. Together with Singapore, Thailand has the largest resident French community in South East Asia (nearly 13,000 registered, about four times more than in 2000) with between 32,000 and 40,000 French residents. France receives on average 101,000 Thai tourists annually.

Scientific cooperation between France and Thailand, regulated by the intergovernmental agreement on higher education and research of 2009 completed in 2012, is excellent notably due to the presence of major French research bodies (the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD)) and public-private scientific partnerships with French companies which make Thailand France’s second-biggest scientific partner within the ASEAN. Cooperation in the aerospace industry is particularly developed.

Under the Thailand 4.0 strategy, based on innovation and digital technology, the country’s authorities are enhancing their grant programmes for PhD study abroad. Since 2011, more than 150 students have been trained in French establishments under the French-Thai excellence scholarship programme, and almost 600 Thai students enrolled in France for the year 2018-2019.

Thailand has over 560,000 French speakers meaning that French remains highly present in the country with 29,000 learners including 26,000 at secondary level and 3,000 at university level.

Updated: April 2019