Dutch community in Pattaya welcomes new ambassador

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On October 29 the Dutch community in Pattaya welcomed H.E. Karel Hartogh, since July the new Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The well-visited ‘Meet & Greet’ took place in Jomtien Thani Hotel. It was a busy evening for our Dutchmen that started 6 p.m. with the Annual Meeting of the Dutch Society in Pattaya, a club with some 250 members that organizes monthly get-togethers and a range of other activities.

Earlier that day the ambassador paid a visit to Hanky Panky Magic in Huai Yai, an impressive Dutch company that makes magic toys that are sold all over the world. This visit took a bit longer than foreseen, probably to learn more about juggling with his always scarce time & resources.

From right to left: Ambassador Karel Hartogh, Filiz Deveci, Deputy Head of the Consular section of the Dutch Embassy, and Martin Brands, president of the Dutch Society in Pattaya. In the background the 9-men strong Dutch swing band B2F.

Attending the ‘Meet & Greet’ as additional guests of honor were Filiz Devici, Deputy Head of the Consular section at the Dutch Embassy, Rudolf Hofer, Consul General of Austria and Honorary Consul of Germany in Pattaya, Richard Ruijgrok, Honorary Consul of Thailand in Amsterdam, and star reporter Elfi Seitz of Pattaya Mail. Both Rudi Hofer and Elfi Seitz are long and good friends of Martin Brands, the president of the Dutch Association in Pattaya.

Filiz Devici, Deputy Head of the Consular section of the Dutch Embassy, Rudolf Hofer, Consul General of Austria and Honorary Consul of Germany in Pattaya, Dutch Association treasurer Henk Dijkstra and Elfi Seitz.

After being introduced to the board members of the Dutch Society in Pattaya, the introduction of the VIPs, and a toast to ‘The Netherlands in Thailand’, HE the Ambassador was introduced by Albert Gringhuis who recently had an extensive interview with him. The ambassador gave a brief speech on the challenges that he faced in his new job. Unknown to the general public, Dutch companies are the second largest investors in Thailand. A main task of the embassy is to facilitate such investments. In line with this, the embassy is preparing the opening and staffing of a new embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, a country of some 60 million people with significant growth potential, but faced with a serious lack of skilled workers as a result of decades of grave internal conflicts.

Richard Ruijgrok, Honorary Consul of Thailand in Amsterdam.

As former director for Asia & Oceania of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ambassador is familiar with South East Asia, and made dozens of trips to Thailand. In 2004 he was responsible for the visit of then Queen Beatrix and Crown Prince Willem Alexander to Thailand to celebrate 400 years of relations between the Netherlands and Thailand.

Vice president of the Dutch Society Douwe Bosma, Secretary Dick Koger and Albert Gringhuis clearly enjoy the event.

As a director, he was the ‘boss’ of the embassy in Bangkok, and now experiences the consequences of his former decisions! He also mentioned that his wife Maddy, a gynecologist specialized in state-of-the-art techniques, is still in the Netherlands. She visits her husband regularly, and the ambassador sees her during his frequent trips to the Netherlands. Still, it would be better if she would live in Bangkok, and it is being studied how she can use her highly specialized expertise in Thailand in a meaningful way.

Elfi Seitz receives a box of Turkish Delight from Martin Brands, just like Filiz Deveci and Albert Gringhuis. The ambassador received a silver ceremonial dagger, as worn in former days by Thai men.

After this it was ‘question time’, and the ambassador answered a range of questions that dealt primarily with consular matters. One of the attendees asked about the possibility of an official visit to Thailand of King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima, also given the fact that the royal families in Thailand and the Netherlands are well-connected. The ambassador stated that such a visit, like any other official visit from the Netherlands or any other country of the European Union, are not in the cards as long as there is no democratically-elected government in Thailand.

(From right to left) Cees van Meurs, Diny van Dieten, and Peter Bruinewoud, with Angelien Roovers, Sieb Elzinga, and Chairman Douwe Bosma – the organizing committee of this very successful event.

The ambassador was very pleased with the event, and depth and width of the questions. The Dutch in Pattaya have experienced him as kind, open, honest and approachable.

At the end there was a photo session with the ambassador and Filiz Deveci.

And then it was time for the dinner & dance, accompanied by great music from the 9-men B2F swing band from the Netherlands! They will return to Thailand in December.