Swedish Thai History

It is hard to find out when a Swedish traveler first visited what was then known as Siam. The same can be said about who the first Thai traveler to set ashore in Sweden was and which year it happened. Still we know that informal relations between the two kingdoms have been maintained over several hundred years.

Take as an example the first Swedish language travel book which describes Siam, seen through adventurer Nils Matson Kiöping’s eyes. His account can be read in ‘Eenkortbeskriffningvppåtrenneresorochperegrinationer, samptkonungarijket Japan’, printed in Visingsborg castle 1667, over 340 years ago.

Diplomatic Exchange

Bilateral relations began in earnest in 1868 when the first Siam-Swedish friendship treaty, The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation of 1868, was finalised.

Siam sent its first own ambassador to Europe 1882, who was also accredited to Sweden.Two years later Axel Johnson was appointed Siam Consul General in Stockholm while Sweden’s first Consul General to Siam took up his position 1888.

 Sweden has had an embassy in Thailand since 1963. Thailand’s embassy in Sweden opened in the 1950’s.

Royal visits

The first recorded meeting between members of the Chakri and Bernadotte dynasties, who ruled the thrones of Thailand and Sweden respectively, occurred when HRH Prince Oscar arrived in Bangkok late 1884, on board the Royal Swedish Navy’s training ship HMS Vanadis and met Thai royals.

The latest official visit took place in June 2006 to celebrate HM King Bhumibol’s 60th anniversary on the throne. From the Thai side HRH Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s journey to Sweden during the summer 2007, to further his airliner pilot skills at SAS Flight Academy and flying all over the country, is one of the latest visits from Thailand’s Royal family.

Orders and Decorations

Prominent Swedes have been bestowed Royal Siamese/Thai decorations from the late 1800’s up to the 2000’s. One early Swedish recipient of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant is banker Knut Agaton Wallenberg, who was instrumental in laying the economic foundation to what today is Sweden’s most prestigious industry group, controlled by the Wallenberg family’s holding company Investor AB.

Saab AB is a key Investor asset, Saab’s current chairman Marcus Wallenberg represents the family’s interests. 

Military Cooperation

The Royal Swedish Navy’s training ship Vanadisarrival in Bangkok in 1884, with Prince Oscar on board, marks the first formal visit by a defence unit from Sweden to Siam.

Sweden’s modern defence industry was born in 1894 when industrialist Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prize, took over cannon manufacturer Bofors. Bofors exported two 75 mm M/12 mountain cannons to Siam in 1912.

Hundreds of Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns, a classic weapon, have been exported to Thailand since World War II. A substantial number are still in service in the Royal Thai Army, RTA, as well as in The Royal Thai Navy, RTN.

 During the 1950’s to the early 1960’s a number of Thai Navy cadets attended the Royal Swedish Naval Academy in Djursholm. All of them advanced to become Admirals in the RTN and they still speak excellent Swedish.

Bofors also delivered a number of 105 mm howitzers to Thailand just before WWII. Sweden’s defence industry was quick to adapt information technology and in the 1970’s new products emerged. Simulators from Saab Training Systems have been delivered to the RTA since the 1970’s. Currently RTA has over 200 gun simulators for tanks and anti-tank gun exercises.

One of the latest simulators, delivered to the RTA in 2005, is like a drive-in-theatre for tanks. You park the tank inside and battlefield scenarios are played up by instructors, for the tank crew to deal with. The advanced short range anti-aircraft missile system RBS 70 by Saab Bofors Dynamics has been delivered to RTAF since 1996, protecting the Kingdom’s military airfields from airborne threats.

Some RTAF pilots and flight controllers underwent an introductory Gripen training course for a few weeks during 2005 at the Swedish Air Force F7 Wing.

Official visits to Thailand and Sweden respectively by high ranking officers have been a regular feature over the years. In May 2006 ACM ChalitPukbhasuk and a RTAF-delegation were guests of the Swedish Air Force. Many more RTAF delegations followed suite as Gripen was selected by Thailand. The Swedish Navy training ship HMS Carlscrona’s latest visit to Bangkok was early spring 2005.

In October 2007 the Thai Cabinet negotiated with Sweden for the purchase of 12 Gripen aircraft and related equipment systems as well as training. By fall 2013 all aircraft including two SAAB 340 AEW had been delivered to RTAF, on schedule.

SAAB is currently involved in an upgrade of several RTN ships, including implementation of data link systems that integrate RTAF Gripen and SAAB 340 AEW with these ships, enabling real time communication between Navy and Air force units.

People to people

Over 19 000 Thais holding Thai citizenship reside in Sweden, thus giving the northern Kingdom new influences, ideas and inspiration. Thai restaurants, Thai massage, Thai travel agents, Thai shops and much more Thai can be found all over Sweden.

Less Swedes live permanently in Thailand. But the number is growing, especially among long stay residents, retired or semi-retired people who live in Thailand for months, maybe years, and often invest in a Thai home. In this group we find ordinary workers and celebrities as well as Swedes who have worked many years in Thailand and wish to retire there.

The bonds between Thailand and Sweden strengthened through shared experience to a level which is difficult to describe in words. Feelings that are deep, genuine and everlasting.

Now and future

 In January 2006 the foreign ministers of Thailand and Sweden signed a Joint Plan of Action, JPOA. The agreement comprises cooperation within trade, education, science, technology etc. and paves the way for government to government supported projects as well as private initiatives between our Kingdoms. A revised JPOA, which goes more into detail in the areas of cooperation, was presented in 2013.