King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia are visiting Thailand to thank Thais and Swedish embassy staff for the help they gave to Swedes caught up in December’s tsunami.
The royal couple landed in Bangkok early on Thursday morning. Their itinerary included a visit the Swedish embassy to meet staff and volunteers who had helped holidaymakers hit by the destruction in Phuket and Khao Lak.
“You have done a great job,” the king told them. “I would like to say a heartfelt thank-you to you all.”
The king and queen had dinner on Thursday night with Thai King Bhumibol and Queen Sikrit, where the king passed on Sweden’s thanks to the Thai people for their help in the aftermath of the tsunami. King Bhumibol lost a grandson in the disaster.
The king is also using the royal visit to present donations to those hit by the tsunami. On Thursday, he handed over a gift of $40,000 from Swedish scout movements to their Thai counterparts. The catastrophe claimed the lives of 354 Thai scouts and left 84 orphaned.
On Friday, the visit moves on to Phuket, where the king was planning to make a donation to help buy fishing boats. The royal couple will also attend a memorial ceremony for tsunami victims.
Dagens Nyheter reported that the king and queen had been the driving forces behind the visit. The couple had felt deeply moved by pictures of the disaster and by their meetings with those affected.
The visit seemed to be appreciated by both Swedes and Thais. Peter Björk, who works at the Thai-Swedish chamber of commerce, and who volunteered at the embassy after the disaster, said that it was great that the royals were taking the time to visit.
“It is enormously appreciated, not least among Thais, who have a special relationship with their royal family” he told Dagens Nyheter. “This means much more than the Nordic prime ministers’ visit,” he added.