Bangkok abuzz over His Majesty's visit
Danial Norjidi in Bangkok, Thailand

"The People of the Kingdom of Thailand Warmly Welcome His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam" - this was the message written on a billboard displayed at Don-Muang Airport in Bangkok when His Majesty arrived in Thailand.

And what a message it is, which has very much been echoed by many of the people here in Bangkok.

Riding in tuk-tuks and taxis, weaving through traffic, chit-chat with the drivers has revealed that the Thais are indeed happy to have His Majesty in Thailand.

One driver who identified himself as Mr Toi said that it was a pleasure to have His Majesty in the country.

His Majesty's official visit to Thailand saw the monarch tour a Thai arts and culture exhibition at the Government House on Saturday with Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Thailand.

One of the exhibitors was Rajamangala University of Technology, and one of its lecturers, Mr Prapat Wannayos, told the Bulletin, "We feel very proud because we have the chance to welcome His Majesty here."

He recalled that everyone in Thailand felt very proud when they saw the His Majesty sitting next to His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand.

He also spoke about Brunei itself, saying that Brunei is one of the famous countries in the region, and that it is important to think about economic issues, and everybody in Brunei is kind, much like the people of Thailand.

"We are very excited to have His Majesty here," he added.

Speaking in an interview on the day His Majesty arrived in Bangkok, the Chief of Protocol for Thailand, Mr Chakarin Chayabongse, was quoted as saying, "This is a very, very special visit.

"It is a pleasure and honour to receive His Majesty, not only for the government but for the whole nation and the people have been looking forward to it very much, as you can see from the welcome signs along the way from the airport."

Answering a question about why the Thais looked forward to the visit, the Thai Chief of Protocol told the Bulletin, "Because our two countries are very close and we have long and close relations, we have our King and (His Majesty) the Sultan as the Heads of State, and so (it's) not only the relations between the countries but the two royal families, which will strengthen the relations between our two nations."

Speaking on whether this visit meant the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries, Mr Chayabongse affirmed, "Yes, certainly."

A local journalist, Umesh Pandey from the Bangkok Post, also spoke to the Borneo Bulletin of the significance of His Majesty's visit to the country, saying, "It's good, and will help spur the economic relations between the two nations, bringing them closer to the aim of AEC (Asean Economic Community) 2015 where every country becomes part of a Southeast Asian economic community."

"Brunei is seen as an ally, and as a country that has been there for us in times of need," he said, adding, its role as a neutral country is one I find very significant."

Thai Finance Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong said that His Majesty's visit to Thailand "is not only a great honour for Thailand, but since many key ministers and officers from Brunei also joined His Majesty to meet with their counterparts, the two countries and Asean hugely benefit from this visit. As a Thai and (government) cabinet member, I am extremely grateful for His Majesty's and those officers' valuable time".

His Majesty is expected to visit the 11th Infantry Regiment Royal Guard today, before departing Bangkok in the afternoon. - Borneo Bulletin (2 July 2012)