The centennial anniversary of Finland 100 Years culminated in December with the celebration of Finland’s Independence Day. In Bangkok, the Embassy of Finland hosted a grand evening reception at The Athenee Hotel – A Luxury Collection Hotel on 6 December 2017. Celebrated in Finnish style, meant a mingling event, with free flow of drinks and Finnish-oriented canapés mixed with some Thai finger food.
Among the hundreds of guests were many prominent Thai as well as Western guests, including representatives of various embassies in Bangkok and a variety of Friends of Finland.
In her address Finland’s Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Satu Suikkari-Kleven thanked all guests for honouring Finland with their presence and share an intriguing story concerning the Finland-Thailand official relationship.
“I would like to start with a little story about a Finnish man who embarked on a long journey from Helsinki towards East Asia in October 1919. The journey took him through London, Marseilles and the Suez Canal. This man was one of the first Finnish diplomats, on his way to become Finland’s representative in Tokyo. To his ship, Mr. Ramstedt received a telegram from the first Finnish Foreign Minister, saying: ‘Please be informed that Siam has recognized the independence of Finland, please pay a visit to Bangkok. Full stop.’ Mr. Ramstedt followed the order and arrived in Bangkok on a hot and humid day. His Royal Highness Prince Devavongse and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Siam granted him an audience the very same day at 2 am. As Siam was the first country in this region that had recognized Finland’s independence, the new nation wanted to express its high esteem in person to the leaders of Siam. Still today, we remember with gratitude this recognition of our independence. Thank you Thailand.”
The Ambassador then went on to explain what lead to Finland’s Declaration of Independence on 6 December 1917. After more than 650 years as part of the Kingdom of Sweden Finland, in 1809, became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire – still with a high level of autonomy, which, at times, as heavily restricted, Satu Suikkari-Kleven described it.
“The goal of the nation became increasingly clear: full independence, full freedom as a sovereign state. In the aftermath of the Russian revolution in 1917, that vision became reality.”
“Two decades later, Finland had to defend its sovereignty and freedom during the Second World War. When we celebrate our independence, we pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”
The Ambassador then went on to highlight some Finnish achievements to feel proud of; the system of general education being one of them, and a strong history of gender equality another. Another is how Finland has, from the early days, invested heavily in research and innovation.
“We are now reaping the benefits of the foresight of our early decision-makers. Finland’s education system is recognized among the very best in the world. Our democratic society, together with impressive technological advances, is the corner stone of our well-being. All these have contributed to make us one of the most prosperous and equal countries in the world.”
Turning to look ahead the Ambassador wanted to convey the message of the importance of having a positive attitude: “There are several crucial phases in our history where optimism against all odds has been the saving grace. This is a lesson to take from our history. I hope that the attitude of optimism and openness will prevail when we continue to address common challenges both globally and locally.”
Satu Suikkari-Kleven also presented a call to action: “Shall we, all of us together here tonight, also make a concrete commitment for a better future? At the Embassy, we have listed a number of concrete measures that each of us can take to reduce plastic waste and the use of plastic in our everyday lives. This commitment will be published in the website of the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable development, a Finnish innovation to speed up the implementation of the UN Sustainable development goals. We invite you all to sign up for this commitment on that website.”
The artists for the evening were Ms Laura Pyrrö (opera soprano) who sang the Thai national anthem with her most impressive voice, followed by the Finnish National anthem were she was joined by Mr Eino Grön (singer), and where the Finnish guests also joined in the singing – all accompanied by pianist Yusuke Komura.
The MC for the evening was Ms Sasapin Siriwanij.
Photos: Joakim Persson