Stepping inside the main building of Dharmarajika Monastery near Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka, visitors would pass a corridor of photos and portraits of monks and dignitaries. One of them is a black and white photo of Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great and Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother during their visit to the monastery in 1962 that will be proudly shown to every Thai delegation.
That momentous event was part of a brief yet historic visit of the royal Thai couple to Dhaka and Chattogram on 20 – 22 March 1962, and its sixtieth anniversary is marked this year.
After acceding to the throne in 1946 at the age of eighteen, his first overseas trip did not happen until 1959 when he traveled to the then South Vietnam. After a tour to several European countries, Their Majesties finally came to Dhaka and Chattogram in 1962. It was the first time that the King of Thailand was welcomed in a land that would later become Bangladesh. However, it was his grandfather, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, who was the first Siamese sovereign to set foot in the Bengal during his visit to India in 1871 that started in Kolkata.
The host arranged the programme for the King and Queen of Thailand to gain authentic Bengal experiences in as many aspects as possible. For instance, the citizens’ receptions were held in Dhaka’s Ramna Park and in Chattogram, and the royal guests were invited to Adamjee Jute Mills which was the world’s largest jute mill at that time, before embarking on the Mary Anderson yacht to Narayanganj.
Her Serene Highness Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit, lady-in-waiting of Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, noted in her memoir that a reception was held on the deck of the yacht which has no engine of its own and was towed by a smaller vessel named M.V. Mary.
Prior to boarding the yacht, the local authorities also displayed Bengal fish like sea bass, snapper and magur for Their Majesties to see the rich marine resources of the country.
Besides photographs, not so many places and objects related to the visit remain intact until these days or could be re-visited. Both the Adamjee Jute Mills and the Mary Anderson have ceased to exist. The mill was nationalized and then closed down in 2002. It is now the site of the Adamjee Export Processing Zone. The Mary Anderson yacht was given to Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, a state-owned tourism corporation in 1978, which used it as a floating restaurant until it was burned down by fire in 2014.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, already came to Bangladesh three times. She has collaborative projects with local authorities on children and youth development, and learning centres on Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to enhance knowledge and transfer agricultural technology. In 2018, the Princess inaugurated the Vetiver Grass Development and Propagation Centre in Chattogram which is supported by Chaipattana Foundation to serve as a learning centre for vetiver cultivation to prevent soil erosion.
At the same time, Bangladesh also contributed to development projects under royal patronage in Thailand. In 2010, the Bangladeshi government presented three Black Bengal goats to Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn who requested Chaipattana Foundation and Mae Fah Luang Foundation to carry out its breeding so that their kids could be distributed to local villagers as a new source of income. The project was successful and hundreds of goats were already given to numerous households especially in the north of Thailand.
In his address at the Dhaka Citizens’ Reception at Ramna Park, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great stated that Dhaka is worthy of the reputation given by travelers who called the place “Queen City of the East.” The King had no doubt that the mutual esteem and respect will result in further strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two countries.
Six decades after this address was delivered, the memory of many might have waned or faded. But the fruits of the royal visit in 1962 have never gone away. They have continuously exposed and resonated themselves in various forms throughout the journey of relations between Thailand and Bangladesh. In February 1972, just a decade after the royal visit, Thailand was among the first countries to recognize Bangladesh as an independent nation. Indeed, the visit at the highest level has truly served its purpose to inspire new cooperation for the benefits of the peoples.
H.E. Mrs. Makawadee Sumitmor, Ambassador of Thailand to Bangladesh