by Kathleen Pokrud
2022 marks the 50th anniversary of bi-lateral relations between Poland and Thailand as the friendship continues to grow stronger. HE Waldemar Dubaniowski who arrived in Bangkok in September 2017 to take up his post as ambassador of Poland to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos is also the current dean of the diplomatic corps based here. Recently he was kind enough to sit down with Elite+ to discuss this long and expansive business, trade and cultural relationship between Poland and Thailand.
Ambassador Waldemar earned a post-graduate degree in Foreign Trade Economics from Warsaw School of Economics and Social Science Studies of the University of Warsaw.
Ambassador Waldemar explained, “Although not a career diplomat, I do not see myself as a political appointee as I received the trust and recognition of two presidents from two different political backgrounds when we experienced a change in government. I am a graduate of the Polish School of Public Administration (Equivalent of the prestigious French ENA (Ecole Nationale d'Administration). The competition to join this elite school was intense with 12 candidates fighting for just one seat.
“I actually see myself as an experienced and highly qualified manager in public administration who has already worked in various strategic management positions in both the President's and the Prime Minister’s Office and in the serious business sector as well.”
Thailand was not his first overseas posting Ambassador Waldemar was previously Polish Ambassador to Singapore for almost five years. He recalled, “During my term there, we took part in negotiations with the prestigious and influential GIC Investment Fund, ranked 5th in the world in the Sovereign Wealth Funds category (SWF). As a result, GIC invested in three Polish companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. These were significant achievements due to the transparent and professional due diligence required by GIC.”
As active as he is here in the diplomatic community, “On a more personal level, I was proud and happy to win the tennis tournament organized by our fellow diplomats and the business community at the oldest-established Singapore Cricket Club.”
Ambassador Waldemar was recently appointed to the prestigious position of dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Thailand. He explained, “I was elected to the same position in Singapore. So it seems that my destiny is to be a dean in a friendly environment...The dean serves as the official representative of the entire diplomatic corps, that means the main contact or facilitator for communications between the diplomatic community and the foreign ministry, which is particularly significant in Thailand due to the quite complex protocol and bureaucratic system.”
The fourteenth of November commemorates 50 years of bilateral ties between our two countries. Ambassador Waldemar elaborated, “I would like to describe this period as 50 successful years building a foundation for continued growth in the relations between Thailand and Poland.
“Thai companies such as CP Group, Thai Union and Indorama have significantly invested in Poland. Conversely, Thailand is receiving foreign direct investment (FDI) from Poland among others in the medical or high-tech development IT sector. For example high quality medical gloves are being manufactured in the southern district of Hat Yai by renowned Polish company Mercator which even designed a special Solar Farm to secure an energy supply for the manufacturing process. Also highly sophisticated and advanced IT services are being offered by another Polish company to many respectful Thai banks. Other interesting Polish products successfully offered here in Thailand are modern hospital beds and natural fertilisers as well as some healthy snacks. Many members of our Polish community, which numbers around 2,000 persons, are involved in these enterprises and naturally in the tourism sector as well.”
When asked about the relationship between Poland and ASEAN, Ambassador Waldemar explained, “When I first came to Thailand in 2017, I was full of confidence to grow our business opportunities in ASEAN, primarily in Thailand, of course, but not only. In addition, I considered Myanmar in particular to be a very promising market in the period of political transformation.
Together with our colleagues from the Ministry of Finance I was negotiating a major financial non-commercial loan to Yangon devoted to significant pro-ecological “green” infrastructural projects. A week before the deal was about to close, the country underwent a coup d'état, and the rest is now history. It is really a pity because Myanmar has a lot of potential. Therefore, the international community, and ASEAN members in particular, should do everything in their power to support Myanmar in its return to democracy.
In Cambodia, we made significant headway with the opening of our Polish Honorary Consulate and installation of an honorary consul - a young and energetic young man full of interesting and creative ideas. Meanwhile, trade between the regional grouping and Poland has grown by 10- 15% in sectors like furniture, copper and rice.”
Adding to his views on gateways to ASEAN, “I always tell potential investors that ASEAN is a huge potential market for expansion with a population of around 700 million. Singapore and Thailand serve as two key gateways for these markets.”
When asked what advice he could give Thai entrepreneurs interested to trade with Poland, Ambassador Waldemar emphasized, “Don’t be afraid to go to Poland with your business agenda, it will definitely pay off, not to mention the great time you will spend there as an additional bonus. Polish companies are dynamic, friendly and open to business collaboration. When comparing Poland to other EU members, we are very price competitive and have a highly skilled and hard-working workforce. We are also located strategically in terms of logistics with the EU markets. So, it will not be an exaggeration to say that Poland is truly a gateway to the European Union market."
During the pandemic, Ambassador Waldemar recalled very symbolic collaboration. “Together with the UK ( here credit to former British Ambassador Brian Davidson and his spouse Scott), the Embassy of Poland initiated assistance to local Thai communities with donations of necessary daily items. We were physically involved with the packing and distribution of the donated items such as masks and essential food and hygienic items. To keep up with continuing business developments during the pandemic, the embassy arranged a number of online webinars to promote Thai and Polish business exchanges in the fields of medicine, IT, Food tech and computer gaming.”
Explaining how it was not easy to conduct business online during Covid time, Ambassador Waldemar was pleased that one interesting trade deal was closed, bringing a significant Thai investment in plastic manufacturing and modern recycling despite the challenges of both countries’ lockdowns.
With Poland’s geographical location at the forefront of the war in Ukraine, Ambassador Waldemar passionately commented, "Lest we forget we forget that it is a year of the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. And I’m not only talking as the Ambassador of Poland, most importantly I’m talking also as a representative of the world’s largest humanitarian NGO. This NGO is being called Poland as we are hosting around three million refugees fom Ukraine."
From today's perspective, among the countries supporting Ukraine, out of seven million refugees, three million are housed in Poland with their families and, importantly, without a single refugee camp. So I believe that in the future my fellow countrymen deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Here, I have to emphasize that “Solidarity” has always been part of our Polish genes … So symbolically we are all Ukrainians these days. Wearing Ukrainian colours has become the new normal not only for me, but for many people - including Polish young tennis superstar Iga Światek
I praise and admire how the Ukrainians have acted so bravely to defend their motherland. I understand that those in Southeast Asia may feel that the war is not related to our daily lives. However, in fact, the consequences have proven to affect everyone globally in terms of the logistics supply chain, costs of energy, inflation and imminent food crisis
As Poland and Thailand this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations and with Covid-19 restrictions now lifted, Ambassador Waldemar has planned a series of activities to promote Poland, “To commemorate the 50th anniversary of our friendship, Thai Post and Polish Post are releasing commemorative stamps to mark this special occasion. A very special part of the celebration was the mesmerising Chopin piano concert organized at Chulalongkorn University also to inspire a younger generation, potential Thai leaders in the future. We also hope to bring Thai scholars to Poland. Simultaneously, the embassy is working to set up a university faculty of Polish studies in Thailand. Other cultural events include our continuous participation in the Thai Silk Exhibition and promotion of Muay Thai in Poland.”
When asked what has impressed Ambassador Waldemar most about Thailand and its culture, he candidly shared, “I feel and appreciate Thai hospitality and believe the slogan “Land of Smiles” is absolutely fully deserved. Thais are always extremely friendly and ready to help, naturally always with a smile on their face. With Madame Ewa, we have been fortunate to travel to many places in Thailand, most most, the less travelled and off-beat destinations. We even experienced the local hot springs, where practically we were the only “farangs”. Another place we were truly impressed, was the oldest traditional salt ponds in Bo Klua in the beautiful and “wild nature” of Nan province, not to mention that the road to Bo Klua is stunning and the views are absolutely breath-taking. And I assure you that there are more such places in Thailand.
As our interview ended, Ambassador Waldemar excitedly disclosed that here in Bangkok he participated twice, as the only Ambassador, along with the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister - Don Pramudwinai in a very interesting event organized by the Thai MFA - special FlashMob promoting the national Thai sport MuayThai. In this context he also added, that for the first time ever Muay Thai will appear as a new sport discipline during the European Olympics that is going to take place next year (2023) in Cracow, the old capital of Poland, a charming and beautiful city. He hopes this will pave the way for Thai sport to be recognized in the world Olympics. It shows another good example of successful collaboration between Poland and Thailand.
“After these few fruitful years in Thailand, I now considered it my second home where I also have many good friends So upon the completion of my term, I believe I can become a goodwill ambassador for Thailand in Poland. And I am sure that I will come back to Thailand to taste again traditional delicious Pad Thai in the bustling street of Bangkok.”