On a breezy Tuesday that seemed like any other, Wuttichai stirred the air with an intriguing comment, referencing a conversation that would tickle the fancy of anyone with even a passing interest in the realm of international relations and adorable pandas. At the heart of this discussion was none other than Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who had recently brought the cozy subject of “panda diplomacy” to the table in a chat with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The setting for this high-level dialogue was the vibrant city of Bangkok, where the two leaders delved into a variety of pressing topics. From economic partnerships that might shape the future to strategies aimed at boosting tourism, their conversation covered the gamut, yet it was the mention of pandas that captured the imagination of many.
Reflecting on the meeting, Srettha took to X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) to share his thoughts. With a sense of playfulness, he remarked that although Thailand currently lacks these bamboo-munching ambassadors, it in no way diminishes the strength and warmth of the half-century-long friendship between Thailand and China. In a move that showcased his dual role as finance minister, Srettha highlighted his panda-centric discussion with Wang, who, in a gesture as sweet as pandas themselves, assured that Chiang Mai Zoo would soon echo with the sounds of pandas once more.
Chiang Mai Zoo, nestled in the scenic Muang district, has a rich history of panda care. It once was the home to the beloved trio of Chuang Chuang, Lin Hui, and their star offspring, Lin Bing, who together turned the zoo into a must-visit destination in the North. The panda family’s journey began on October 12, 2003, when Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui arrived from China’s Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas in Wolong, marking a new chapter in panda diplomacy. Their daughter Lin Bing, born on May 27, 2009, only added to their allure until she returned to China on September 28, 2013. Despite a planned return for her parents that same year, their stay was extended until 2023, symbolizing the enduring friendship between the two nations.
Yet, not all tales have a happy ending. The zoo and the world mourned when Chuang Chuang passed away at 19 in 2019, followed by Lin Hui in 2023 at the age of 21. These events left a panda-shaped void in the hearts of many.
Wuttichai, with a note of pride in his voice, pointed out that Chiang Mai Zoo’s nearly two decades of experience in panda care have not only made it a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures but also a bridge between cultures, working hand in hand with Chinese authorities. The zoo has lovingly preserved the habitat shared by Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, a silent tribute to their memory and a promise of hope for the future.
As the zoo anticipates the arrival of new pandas, backed by the support of governments both Thai and Chinese, it stands ready to once again become a beacon of joy and international camaraderie. The promise of panda diplomacy, it seems, continues to weave its magic, reminding us that sometimes, the softest diplomacy comes wrapped in fur and a penchant for bamboo.