A Brief Meeting with Brian Davidson, British Ambassador to Thailand

 | Wed 19 Oct 2016 08:55 ICT

On October 7th, Citylife sat down for a few minutes with the new British ambassador, Brian Davidson, who has been in Thailand just over four months, following a posting in China where he was consul general in Shanghai. He follows previous ambassador Mark Kent, who was transferred to another Diplomatic Service appointment.

Brian Davidson was born in 1964 and grew up in Northern Ireland. He gained a Bachelor of Arts in Law at Trinity College, Cambridge, then joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1985. Davidson is accompanied by his American husband Scott Chang whom he married in a ceremony in Beijing in 2014.


Citylife: What services are now available to British citizens in Chiang Mai, now that there is no Honorary British Consulate office?

Ambassador Davidson: Everything is provided here but provided in a different way. It is more efficient now with most services online. The embassy sends staff up here regularly, mainly to continue our many dialogues with local government offices. We have regular conversations with the mayor, the governor, the British community and the few British companies here.

Citylife: What are your thoughts regarding the ongoing problems at immigration and are you doing anything to help?
Ambassador Davidson: We have had many meetings with the governor and with immigration. We have offered to show them how our visa application centre in Bangkok works, it could prove to be a good model for them to use.
Citylife: What other issues are you working on up here?

Ambassador Davidson: Safety for our citizens is a concern. We have campaigns to encourage our citizens to wear crash helmets, to take out insurance when renting motorcycles or cars. We are also working on encouraging Brits to take out health insurance. I have talked to the National Park about their response when hikers go missing or have accidents. We talk to tour operators to ensure that they are fully prepared for all eventualities as well as to have everyone insured. We have an annual safety campaign in Chiang Mai on Songkran safety as well.

We have had talks with bike rental shops, not only about compliance in matters such as helmets, licenses and insurance, but also the fact that we don’t like it when people hold passports. All passports must be in the possession of the passport holder.

Citylife: Is there any significant trade between the UK and Chiang Mai?

Ambassador Davidson: There are very few big British businesses here though there are many British citizens who own or run small or medium sized businesses. But there is no significant British investment in Chiang Mai, or Chiang Mai investment in the UK. There is Tesco, and they are doing things such as providing space in their forecourts to sell local produce, this is their part of investment in the local community.

I am very interested in how the Thailand 4.0 plan can be applied to Chiang Mai and how to potentially match businesses between our two countries. The trade team may need to come up and look closely at the agriculture – especially processed food – and tourism sectors, both of which the UK has great expertise in.

I am very interested in the government’s plan tol use Chiang Mai as a pilot city for its Smart City strategy. So far they have implemented CCTVs, but I know that city hall wants to develop a digital infrastructure. This will make traffic, waste management and many other issues more efficient.

Citylife: Is there a growing number of British retirees in Chiang Mai?

Ambassador Davidson: After the United States and Japan, Brits are the third largest group of expat pensioners living in Thailand. This is why it is very important for us to make sure that as many British citizens as possible are covered by health insurance, to that end, we are encouraging all new arrivals to get coverage.