The Thai government is testing the patience of the Swiss Diplomacy. The Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, needs to fly to Bangkok as soon as possible to protect the life of Swiss Citizen Xavier Justo, the crown witness in the Malaysian multi billion dollar money laundering scandal 1MDB. who is fearing for his life in a terribly overcrowded, dangerous Thai prison.
Given both nations have established bi-lateral agreements on prisoner transfers, Xavier Justo by now should be sitting safely in a Swiss Prison. Yet, the Thais are suddenly dragging their feet and are seemingly testing the patience of Berne. “Didier Burkhalter will commit a political suicide, should, God forbid, any harm happens to Swiss Citizen Xavier Justo in Thailand” says fellow Swiss 1MDB victim Pascal Najadi. “I call on Mr. Didier Burkhalter, our Foreign Minister, to intervene personally in Bangkok to ensure the safety for Xavier. This is Switzerland calling, one of the most important trading partners with Thailand.”
The first documented contacts between Switzerland and Thailand date back to the 17th century, when Swiss missionaries published reports of their visits to the kingdom of Siam. In the 19th century Swiss textile industrialists were looking for new markets in south-east Asia.
The kingdom of Siam joined the Universal Postal Union in Berne and the Geneva Red Cross Convention as long ago as 1895. After the first visit of the Thai monarch to Switzerland in 1897, representatives of the two countries negotiated the conclusion of a Friendship and Trade Agreement; however, it was not signed until 1931. Switzerland opened an Honorary Consulate in Bangkok in 1932 and an embassy in 1949. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX of Thailand got educated in the early 1930’s at the École nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne, Switzerland.
It can not be that Switzerland or Swiss Citizens become diplomatic hostages by interference of third parties, in this case Malaysia. We feel outraged, shocked and numb at the same time to observe the low level games played by Bangkok here. Switzerland is Thailand’s number one European trading partner. The current diplomatic fiasco initiated by Thailand can also be read as a threat to the more than 160’000 Swiss tourists visiting Thailand every year. Is Thailand safe and a valid partner?
The current crisis threatening the life of Swiss Citizen Xavier Justo is the ultimate test for both, Bangkok and Berne, whereas Berne is in her right. History will tell. Berne better make sure this history to be right, not sorry.