Mrs Doris Voorbraak, The New Deputy Head of Mission and Head of Political and Economic Department at the Netherlands Embassy, visited Chiang Mai from 12 – 14 March, 2014. She was here to explore and discuss the socio-economic situation from the perspective of local stakeholders in Chiang Mai.
During her visit she gave an interview to CityNews:
Citylife General Manager Patrick (who is Dutch) and Doris in the middle.
CN: Thank you for agreeing to talk to CityNews. In layman’s terms, what is your visit all about?
For me this was my first introduction to Chiang Mai. I am very happy to have finally visited the city which has been my daughter’s favorite for years after she came here on a school trip. I am well aware of all its wonders as a tourist destination and I will come back to explore its magic.
Of course I am now here because of its economic importance. The embassy has many valuable, long time business contacts and this will was my first opportunity to visit successful Dutch companies, small and large, and meet with investors and leaders of the Thai business community.
I also met with respected academics and learned their views about future challenges and opportunities to sustain this thriving and dynamic community. Chiang Mai is transforming fast and the Netherlands can be a partner as it grows and develops.
CN: During your trip to Chiang Mai, where did you visit and why?
My visit was organized to coincide with a networking event of the Netherlands-Thai Chamber of Commerce (NTCC). I therefore met with many members of the Dutch business community and was part of a large group, which visited two very prominent Dutch businesses, Driessen (the producer of 80% of airplane trolleys in the world) and the newly opened Promenada Resort Lifestyle Mall. Both very impressive and innovative businesses and providers of many local jobs in Chiang Mai!
But I was also very pleased with the opportunity to visit long term Embassy contacts, such as the East-West Seed and the growers of “take-me-home” tomatoes. Food and agriculture trade relations with Thailand can still expand. I had an inspiring discussion with the Federation of Thai Industries about strengthening collaboration with Food Valley Thailand and I will work with Food Valley Netherlands to help make that happen.
CN: There are many Dutch expats living in Chiang Mai, are you aware of approximately how many there are? Do you know why Dutch people are drawn to Chiang Mai in particular?
Dutch people are not obliged to register at the Embassy and therefore we do not have concrete numbers. Estimates that I hear vary between a few hundred to a few thousand.
Dutch people are drawn to Chiang Mai, and from what I learned on this trip, it is because of many different reasons: the easy and comfortable way of life, good facilities, business opportunities, and last but not least, the hospitality and welcoming attitudes of our Thai hosts and friends.
Doris meeting Dutch and local businesswomen at Promenada Resort Mall.
CN: Presumably, like all Embassy Staff, one of your main roles will be to promote trade between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There are several Dutch business people living in Chiang Mai; are you intending to visit any of them? What advice would you give to them about doing business here?
I visited many businesses and at the moment I am learning from them. I however also heard many compliments about the way the Embassy and generally the Dutch government has been able to facilitate business. I happily pass that compliment on to my colleagues. The fact that the Netherlands-Thai Chamber of Commerce (NTCC) will be opening a chapter in Chiang Mai is evidence of a growing demand for support in setting up business. We welcome this initiative and as the NTCC is housed in the Embassy in Bangkok, we will be close partners in supporting business in Chiang Mai.
CN: There is a perceived conception that Thailand is unsafe in the Western media, due to the recent protests, and this is leading to a fall in tourism. Is there anything you can do to change these perceptions and put people at ease?
We have continuously updated our website, Facebook page, and twitter account with factual information but never discouraged Dutch nationals to come and we have no evidence that they ever stopped coming!
CN: This time of year, pollution is a big issue in Northern Thailand. Dutch people are known to be very conscious of the environment – is there anything you can do to help here?
We have had collaborations in the past on city planning and development, and Dutch expertise in green cities is well known and always in demand. The Urban Development Institution Foundation (UDIF), which I also visited, is doing a great job in awareness raising on environmental issues, particularly targeted at young people.
Community foundations have been essential for change in the Netherlands and it is important for them to be supported by the Chiang Mai community. First and foremost, the municipality and the people of Chiang Mai need to make environmental awareness a priority, but we are happy to provide inspiration in that process based on Dutch experiences.