His Excellency Marek Libřický took his post as the Czech Republic’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Thailand in January 2017 and is concurrently Ambassador to Kingdom of Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. At just 49 years old, Ambassador Libřický is already a highly experienced diplomat. Before taking his assignment in Thailand he held a number of important posts with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague and in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. His appointment as head of the Czech Republic’s mission in Thailand is a much cherished milestone for this bright young diplomat.
“The Czech Republic is a mid-sized European country situated in the very heart of the continent. I do not want to get into a ‘dispute’ where exactly the geographical centre of Europe is, but I must emphasise – like many of my colleagues from neighbouring countries would certainly do – that the Czech Republic is in Central Europe.
“Many people still follow the stereotype of the Cold War and its East-West geopolitical division, which has been destroyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and following democratic changes in the region. I consider this old-style perception of Europe to be out-of-date, because it only cements many stereotypes that are clearly from the past, and thus create false and misleading picture of many European countries. Today, the Czech Republic is a standard European country, enjoying many successes and facing the same challenges as other members of the European Union or other European nations.
“Given the numbers of Thais travelling to the Czech Republic, I believe our cultural and historical heritage is well known to Thai public. Many of them already know Prague, Karlovy Vary or Český Krumlov, but there is still much more to discover in other parts of my country. We have dozens of spas, over a thousand castles and chateaux, many natural wonders, wine regions and of course a lot to offer to beer lovers – not only in cities of Plzeň or České Budějovice (Pilsen or Budweis in German) but also in hundreds of craft breweries. There are many good reasons why the Czechs are the largest beer consumers in the world.”
“I am a career diplomat, having joint the Czech Foreign Service many years ago. During my career, I have moved around a couple of regions, each of them giving me a unique and usually pleasant experience. I served at the Czech Embassies in Manila, Tel Aviv and Madrid as the Deputy Head of Mission or Head of Commercial Section, to become Ambassador in Addis Ababa in 2009 and in Bangkok in January 2017.
“Although my foreign postings were diverse, I have spent most of my time in the headquarters working at the Asia-Pacific Department – moving up from a desk officer to the Deputy Director and the Director, which is an equivalent of the Director-General level in Thai terms. The only exception was when I worked as the Deputy or Acting Chief of Protocol.
“I live in Prague, but I come from the city of Hradec Králové, some hundred kilometres east of the capital. By the way, I am not the first Czech Ambassador to Thailand with this background – I share my origins with Ambassador Jiří Šitler who is still very active vis-à-vis Thailand and has many friends here. I studied
in Prague and graduated from the University of Economics with major in International Trade and minor in International Politics and Diplomacy.
“I joined the Foreign Service in February 1994, when I received a fourth offer to become a diplomat and decided to try it, not only because I thought that it might have been the last chance since further offers would not have come. The second reason that made the offer irresistible was that it was to join the Asia- Pacific Department, my long-time preference. As I said, I had studied International Trade and International Politics and Diplomacy, so it was a natural choice.
“Mid-90’s were very exciting and extraordinary times, full of changes – world-wide and in the Czech Republic. A few years after democratic changes in then Czechoslovakia, the split of it and birth of the independent Czech Republic. We had many great ambitions to join the democratic and prosperous world, NATO or the European Union, and be successful. Ideal times to join the Foreign Service for those who wanted to be an active part of it.
“I came to Thailand for the first time decades ago. I remember the old-style Bangkok, less elevated streets, less high-rise buildings, but the same charm and hospitality we experience today. Actually, Bangkok was to be our first posting in 1995, but destiny decided otherwise and we left for the Philippines instead.
“I became Ambassador to Thailand in January 2017 after spending three years being in charge of the Asian-Pacific affairs in the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I applied for the job based on a smart family decision, and was lucky to be appointed.
“But my first ambassadorial posting was in Addis Ababa from 2009 to 2014 when I covered not only Ethiopia but also 11 more countries of East Africa, the
African Union and three UN agencies. It was a great and extraordinary experience that I enjoyed tremendously.
“In case of countries like Thailand, the standard term of posting is four years but it is not a dogma, it can be extended for various reasons.
“I am here in Bangkok together with my family – my wife Alena, who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well, and our two sons, Šimon and Filip. We have all been enjoying our stay here in spite of late challenges we all have had to face.”
“My major and principle task is to promote and defend interests of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens and companies in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. This includes strengthening of bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and these three countries.
“As excellent as they are, each of them has a slightly different history, storylines and focus, and there is always potential and need for further improvement. I still remain in charge of our relations with Cambodia in my capacity of non-resident ambassador, although we reopened our Embassy in Phnom Penh a few years ago.
“My everyday duties are the same as those of my colleagues you have interviewed before – meeting with relevant partners and interlocutors from the government, business figures, as well as representatives from areas of culture, civil society, etc. There may only be different emphasis put on this or that agenda by each country or in different time.
“I always see my priorities in areas of economic and business relations, political and defence or security cooperation and people-to-people contacts that go hand-in-hand with culture or tourism. Due to circumstances related to Covid-19 pandemic, a bigger importance was given recently to consular issues and repatriation of Czech and other EU citizens from Thailand back home.
“The official diplomatic were established only in March 1974, meaning last year we celebrated 45th anniversary, but Czech-Thai or Czech-Siam relations and contacts date much back to the history. Until 1918 and the birth of independent Czechoslovakia, the Czech lands were part of the Austrian or Austrian-Hungarian empires, and there were many people from Czech lands who actively participated in contacts between Austria and Siam. Pre-1918 relations between Austria and Siam form an integral part of our common history.
“After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, bilateral ties were focused primarily on business with the presence of the leading Czech companies in Siam getting stronger and stronger. Some of the Czech (or then Czechoslovak) brands became common household names, and have remained them since. We can name Bat’a shoes, Škoda industrial goods or ČZ arms as examples. When H.M. King Prajadhipok visited Czechoslovakia in 1934, nobody was surprised – given the level of economic cooperation – that he inspected the premises of Škoda or Bat’a factories as well.
“After the WWII, it was not easy to build on the pre-war cooperation, although from time to time one or the other side came up with initiatives to do so. Unfortunately, without much success until 1973-74.
“The Czechoslovak Embassy was opened in Bangkok in 1974, and it was led by Chargé d'Affaires a.i. with the Ambassador being accredited as non-resident from Rangoon. These arrangements changed after 1989 when the ambassador moved to Bangkok.
“Nowadays, there are nine Czech staff members working at the Embassy, include a representative of CzechTrade, our Trade Promotion Organization. We have also an active Defence Attaché accredited from New Delhi.”
“Every ambassador would surely say that relations are great and excellent, and I am glad I can say it as well and I can say it sincerely. Without any hesitation, last couple of years can be considered one of the peaks of our relations. In January 2019, first-ever official visit of Czech Prime Minister to Thailand took place – with the two Prime Ministers, Mr Andrej Babiš and General Prayut Chan-o-cha, having met on a number of occasions before and after.
“The Prime Minister’s visit also followed up on three meeting s between our President, Mr Miloš Zeman, and the Prime Minister of Thailand in years prior to the visit. Last November, our Minister of Defence, Mr Lubomír Metnar, paid a visit to Thailand and supported our national presentation of the Czech defence and security industry at the Defense and Security 2019, in a similar manner as the Deputy Minister of Defence during the previous editions of the exhibition.
“Last year, we also welcomed in Bangkok the President of the Czech Supreme Court. The latest major event that took place was the official visit of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, Mr Radek Vondráček, to Thailand in February 2020. It not only cemented the inter-parliamentarian pillar of cooperation, but also showed a great synergy between the legislature and the executive branch because the Speaker was accompanied by the Minister of Environment, Mr Richard Brabec. These were the major visits while there were many more high-level contacts.
“During his meeting with the President of the National Assembly and the House of Representatives, Mr Chuan Leekpai, both sides recalled that it was only the second visit of the Czech Speaker to Thailand, the first taking place in 1994. In this regard, President Chuan recalled how he had welcomed our President Mr Václav Havel at the airport upon his arrival for the state visit in 1994. In this context, I dare to compare the current level of relations between our two countries to their quality and intensity of mid-1990s.
“In terms of trade, we have been experiencing the best period in modern history during the last decade. If we combine national trade statistics of both sides – which is the approach I prefer to get a more complex picture – we can see a steady increase of figures in both directions. Combined turnover of our bilateral trade in goods made in the Czech Republic or Thailand has been around US$1.6 - 1.7 billion, or getting closer to the target of $2 billion if we add goods made in third countries.
“The real flow of goods between our countries is much bigger than it is perceived based on export statistics only. In particular, the Czech imports of Thai goods of more than $1.3 billion are more than $600 million higher than Thai export statistics. All this means that mutually we are much more important trade partners than many people think. The Czech Republic is a much more relevant trade partner and customer to Thai companies than many other European countries that are traditionally considered to be on top.
On the contrary, the most important items are electronics, manufacturing goods related to the energy sector or transportation. A large share of the exchange is part of international value or supply chains. Many Czech-made products come to Thailand under third-party brands being a part of turn-key solutions. It means that the picture is much more complex and we should look under the surface to find more, especially given the growing significance of services, innovations and other ‘soft items’ that are not reflected in trade of goods.
“I am very glad that there is not only trade going up, but also investment flows. There have been very important investments in both directions – be it into chemical industries, light manufacturing or hospitality from Thailand to the Czech Republic, or ICT the other way. I hope there is more to come given the number of projects discussed on different levels and supported by the administrations of both countries. I mentioned innovations and services, which are to play more and more important role in our cooperation and our efforts to support the process of internationalization of each other´s companies or their solutions.
“Looking for new ways and areas of cooperation does not mean that we should forget or neglect the traditional ones like tourism. It is not only about business, it is also about people-to-people contacts, getting to know each other and each other´s culture better.
“Last years, there were around 50,000 to 60,000 Czech tourists visiting Thailand and approximately the same number of Thais coming to the Czech Republic, although some expert estimates even talk about as many as 120,000 if we count Thais who ‘hop in, hop off’ for a day-long visit from neighbouring Germany or Austria. I think the numbers are respectable, but should be higher once there is a direct flight between Bangkok and Prague. Re-establishment of this connection is one of the projects we have been working on for a while.
“Tourism is closely related to culture, and there has been an intensive exchange of cultural activities lately. We took advantage of a couple of important anniversaries to promote the Czech Republic and its culture in Thailand. We organized concerts of classical music on the occasions of the centenary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 2018 that included also exhibition on the Bat’a phenomenon.
“Last year on the occasion of 30 years since the restoration of democracy in our country, we participated in various events of our European partners, and organized in cooperation with Chulalongkorn University and Alliance Française concerts of a young Czech pianist Matyáš Novák. Besides this anniversary, we commemorated also those of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974 and the state visit of President Havel in 1994 with various cultural activities.
“We also participate in events organized by the EU – be it European Film Festival or EU Language Café – or have been a partner in the Bangkok Piano Festival and supporter of some performing arts promoting Czech pieces like those of Franz Kafka.
“As I have already mentioned, in promoting Czech and Central European culture in Thailand we closely cooperate with the Chulalongkorn University in particular. In this regard, I was very pleased when our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Tomáš Petříček, showed his appreciation last year of the contribution of Ms Verita Sriratana, Associated Professor of the European Studies Programme of the Faculty of Arts of Chula, and consequently of the whole Chulalongkorn University, by the Gratias Agit. It is an award given since 1997 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic overseas. Professor Verita has now joined a list of prominent personalities like Madeleine Albright, Miloš Forman or the King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia.”
“To relax, nowadays I enjoy playing squash or badminton, and would like to play tennis a bit more. Having grown up with horses, I have always been a horseman and would like start riding again. Forced by circumstances, I stopped hating jogging. Thanks to being posted in Thailand, I have recently managed to catch up with my family and become a certified diver. Besides sports, I enjoy classical music and a good book or movies.”
• 1993: Master of Economics, University of Economics, Prague. Major ‒ International Trade. Minor ‒ International Politics and Diplomacy.
• 2002: Diplomatic Academy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic).
• Since January 2017: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Bangkok ‒ Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Thailand, Kingdom of Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
• March 2014 - January 2017: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Director of the Asia-Pacific Department, ASEM and EU-ASEAN SOM Leader.
• December 2009 - February 2014: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Addis Ababa ‒ Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Somalia, Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros and South Sudan, and Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
• September 2007 - December 2009: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Department, ASEM and EU-ASEAN SOM Leader-alternate, Chair-alternate of the EU COASI and COEST (Central Asia) Working Groups during the Czech EU Presidency in 2009.
• July 2003 - August 2007: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Madrid ‒ Deputy Head of Mission and Head of the Political Section (covering Spain and Andorra).
• October 2001 - July 2003: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Deputy/Acting Director of the Diplomatic Protocol Department.
• August 2000 - September 2001: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Desk Officer, Asia-Pacific Department.
• March 1997 - August 2000: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tel Aviv ‒ Head of the Commercial Section (covering Israel and Palestinian National Authority).
• March 1995 - March 1997: Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila ‒ Deputy Head of Mission.
• February 1994 - March 1995: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic ‒ Desk Officer, Asia-Pacific Department.
• September 1993 - January 1994: ICL Czech Republic ‒ Marketing Manager/Manufacturing Business Unit.
• July 1993 - September 1993: KORD Ptáčník ‒ Hradec Králové, Assistant to the General Manager / Owner.
• Fluent in English, Spanish languages and intermediate in French and Russian.