Consul General’s Corner: Living History
February 14, 2011
So much of life is timing. My husband and I dated at university, but it wasn’t until we met up again as young professionals that we got engaged. Our recent posting to Beijing coincided with the 2008 Olympic Games, which China hosted and we enthusiastically attended. And now I am honored to be the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate during the year of our 60th anniversary.
On Thursday, February 10, two months after our official anniversary, the Consulate held a reception to mark the occasion. We decorated the Consulate grounds to look like an old Lanna market, with parasols and basket tables serving traditional northern food. Along one side of our lawn, we had an exhibition of the King and Queen of Thailand’s two state visits to the United States in the 1960s. On the other side, we had a slide show of commentary and photos from previous consuls general, which can also be viewed here: http://chiangmai.usconsulate.gov/programs_and_events/2010/special-messages.html.
Among our guests was the Governor of Chiang Mai province, M.L. Panadda Diskul, who raised a toast to our bilateral collaboration; and Khunying Chao Raweephan, the last member of the Lanna royal family, who as a little girl lived in my residence. I once asked her how she felt about the U.S. Consulate General occupying her grandfather’s former home, to which she replied, “You’ve taken such good care of it! It’s just the way it used to be when we lived there.” Last Thursday, with the magic of lights, flowers, and glittering guests, I’m happy to think she is right.
Our guest of honor was the new U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, the energetic and dynamic Kristie Kenney (http://ambkristie.us/about). She had spent a full day visiting the Consulate offices, meeting our staff, and visiting the Governor at the Provincial Hall. As it was her first trip to Chiang Mai, we also brought her to Doi Suthep to admire the wat and look out over the city. With a cool breeze and panoramic view, the Ambassador was very impressed.
In her remarks at our reception, the Ambassador spoke about the importance of the Consulate, the sole U.S. consular presence outside of Bangkok, for economic and trade issues, law enforcement cooperation, and educational and cultural exchanges. She greeted guests including the Federation of Thai Industries, presidents of the major universities, local business people, and government officials. We had guests from the 3rd Army Region, Police Region 5, and the 33rd Army Circle. Some had traveled from as far as Chiang Rai and Phitsanulok.
As if to demonstrate the importance of our presence in Chiang Mai, this past week saw the opening ceremony of the Cobra Gold U.S.-Thai joint military exercises, now the largest multilateral exercises in the world. Deputy Chief of Mission Judith Cefkin attended the February 7 opening ceremony with Lt. General Kenneth Glueck, Commander of U.S. Marine Bases in Japan; and we hosted Lt. General Duane Thiessen, Commander of the U. S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, on February 11, for a luncheon with his Thai counterparts.
The Ambassador will be back in Chiang Mai at the end of this week to participate in the closing ceremony for Cobra Gold, now in its 30th year. While not quite as old as our Consulate, the exercises here show that the U.S. remains very engaged in northern Thailand.
And I feel very fortunate to be here for the celebrations.