Thailand’s ambassador to China, Wiboon Khusakul, has become quite well known after launching a Thai embassy website on Weibo, a popular microblogging forum, in January last year. The blog now has some 50,000 Chinese followers and has been a powerful tool for promoting Thai culture and Thai products. HE Wiboon is fluent in Mandarin and at times answers questions posed on the site himself.
The ambassador’s use of social media has attracted much attention. He was named one of 15 newsmakers of the year by the Chinese media. Last November, hundreds of young Chinese who learned about Thai products and culture on Weibo went to a durian festival held at the ambassador’s residence.
“I just wanted to turn a crisis into an opportunity,” HE Wiboon told Elite+ in an interview in Beijing. “Last year political divisions in Thailand got a lot of media attention and I was asked about politics. Instead of presenting one side of the story, I thought there were a lot of good sides of Thailand that do not get promoted enough, so I opened a Weibo page to promote Thai products and Thai culture.”
Ambassador Wiboon, who was a Thai consul in Kunming 30 years ago, then a consul in Shanghai before being appointed to the Thai embassy in Beijing in 2012, said that the promotion of Thai culture and Thai products is a form of diplomatic “soft power” that can boost Thailand’s image and deepen the relationship in a sustainable way.
“If people like to travel, if they love eating durian and Thai food, they will love and come to Thailand.
“I always believe that soft power can stay above politics. Thai politics might change but soft power will not. Regardless of political parties and differences, every government in power must do the same in promoting Thai culture.”
The embassy page on Weibo is an effective way to reach out to the young Chinese middle class. Tourists can post about their experiences in Thailand, beautiful places, interesting food, and such word of mouth helps promote the Kingdom’s products, culture and tourism.