Swedish Ambassador in Bangkok, Staffan Herrström, returned to office the 15th February finishing an eventful roundtrip in the region. He’s been granted diplomatic accreditation in Lao PDR, discussed gender equality with the Governor of Chiang Mai and met with independent broadcasters in Myanmar. ScandMedia has been in touch with the Ambassador to summarize.
The travels took of in the Northern Thailand, where Pawin Chamniprasart, Governor of Chiang Mai, was paid a visit.
“I had a very useful conversation with the Governor on a broad range of issues, not least the preconditions for tourism in this lovely city. We talked in detail about i.a. traffic safety”, Staffan Herrström reports.
Swedish Government is known for pursuing a feminist foreign policy and that was also an impact in the discussion.
“I am happy that I also got the opportunity to raise the issue of gender equality and the importance to engage men in the efforts to promote women’s rights. This is a theme of highest priority for the Swedish Government. for the Embassy and also for me personally”. The Ambassador is a warm advocator for the HeForShe-campaign, a solidarity campaign to engage men in gender equality launched by UN Women.
In Chiang Mai the Ambassador also visited the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), the only independent broadcaster in Myanmar, which Sweden has been supporting for a long time.
“Free, independent journalism is crucial for democratic development in any country, and I think DVB continues to play a significant role in the historic process Myanmar now is going through”, Staffan Herrström tells.
“I think there is generally good reasons for optimism, given the free character of the elections last autumn. But major challenges lie ahead, not least in the peace process. Sweden will continue to be a committed partner to the people of Myanmar, and I look forward to participate in that work”, the Ambassador answers, asked about his thoughts on Myanmar in the future.
Lastly Staffan Herrström was granted diplomatic accreditation in Lao PDR the 12th February, meaning that the ambassador is certified as Sweden’s official representative to Lao PDR. Sweden has a long history in Lao PDR and have been a major provider for development assistance since 1974, which Staffan Herrström personally took part in.
“I am happy that this is still remembered and highly appreciated. The Swedish development agency, Sida, has a very good reputation, which is great for me to note, since I was Deputy Director General for Sida for many years and in that capacity visited Vientiane ten years ago”, Staffan Herrström explains as he notices changing times is coming for Lao PDR:
“Now we are on our way into a new phase in our relations with Lao PDR and the society at large. We have i.a. moved from aid to trade, and I note with satisfaction that sectors where we see interest and activities from the Swedish private sector like agroforestry and transport also are given priority by Lao PDR”.
And how do you see yourself involved in Laos in the coming?
“With the limitations given by the fact that I am resident in Bangkok I will do what I can, together with my excellent colleagues at the Embassy, to be engaged in Laos, not least through the EU and through frequent visits. Issues related to gender equality and human rights are always close to our hearts”.
The Ambassador also visited other partners and organisations in the region, including “Earth Rights International”, “Kids Ark”, “Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development” and “Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact”.