As Aung San Suu Kyi conducts her first tour of Thailand as Burma’s State Counselor, The Irrawaddy looks back at an address to a Thai delegation given by her father, Gen Aung San in 1947. The speech was delivered at the luncheon party given in honor of the Thai delegation at the Orient Club in Rangoon on April 17, 1947.
Thailand was still often referred to as Siam at that time.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our thanks are due to the Siamese delegation for honouring us with a visit. The delegation is led by no less a person than Phya Anuman Ratchathan, Director of Fine Arts of University of Chulalornkorn. Anuman holds a high place in the world of literature and arts in Siam, besides being a historian of international fame. An author of voluminous works, his “History of Faiths of Siam and Neighbouring Countries” has been regarded as an authority on the subject of comparative religion. It is a matter for gratification that a leading exponent of Siamese art and culture has come to this country and it is hoped that the contacts made would have important results in the national life of our two countries.
Our country before the war has had the privilege of welcoming goodwill missions from our eastern neighbour. And although our own preoccupation with our affairs had prevented our
paying her return visits, the relationships between Burma and Siam have always been characterized by the greatest possible cordiality and goodwill. A number of Burmans are
residing in Siam; and during the last war, quite a number of Burmese families evacuated to that country. The result is that the ties of friendship are even stronger now than ever before, and there are now many in Burma who have come to regard Siam as a kind of second home. Those of us who have visited Siam have been impressed by the overwhelming hospitality extended to us at all times by the Siamese. We appreciate these unfailing proofs of sincerity and friendship on the part of those, whom we regard as our kinsmen, and with whom we have many things in common. Our beliefs and traditions are in many respects similar. We have leamt to respect one another and to admire each other’s prowess.
The national heroes that excite our utmost admiration are Alaungpaya and Phya Naret. Both the Shwedagon and the Wat Arun are the objects of our common veneration, while the mighty Irrawaddy and the lordly Menam Chao Phaya with their myriad streams of life-giving waters will always command a sense of eternal gratitude and affection both in the Burman and the Siamese. These common institutions, traditions and aspirations are significant, for they have helped to overcome one difference that exists between us—the difference in language. But this difficulty is overcome for practical purposes in the course of a short stay in Siam. For the Siamese spoken word is partial to the foreigner.
The one overriding factor however that had in the past kept, and that should in the future always keep, our two peoples united is of course our spiritual affinity. It is the religious bond that binds Burma and Siam so closely. As you know, Buddhism is the prevailing faith—the State religion—in Siam. Siam takes pride, and quite rightly so, in her orthodoxy; and after Burma,
Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and Cambodia ceased one after another to be independent, Siam has had the honor of being regarded as the defender of the Buddhist faith. The Siamese government has set an example to Buddhist countries by the far-reaching legislations introduced in the recent years calculated to enlist Buddhism in the cause of national unity.
As regards to our future, our mutual interests and our past experience require that we should stand together. There must be no occasion for any misunderstanding between us, and no effort should be spared to foster still better and closer relations between our two countries. We believe that such close friendship can be maintained only by constant and intimate contact. With this end in view, and for the mutual benefit of our two countries, we propose to appoint a diplomatic
representative of ours in Siam at an early date.
In conclusion, I wish to thank Phya Anuman Ratchathan and the distinguished members of the Siamese delegation again for giving us this opportunity of showing our high esteem for them, on the auspicious occasion of our Burmese New Year, our fraternal greetings to the Siamese people.