Meeting with Staff and Families of Embassy Bangkok

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Bangkok, Thailand
November 17, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Oh, what a great way to start our day together. And I want to begin by thanking the ambassador. Thank you to the ambassador for her leadership. As you probably know, Ambassador Kenney is one of very best, and we are really greatly admiring and appreciative of her leadership here. I also want to thank our deputy chief of mission – where is our DCM Cefkin? Okay. Good. There you are back there. Thank you – and everybody for making this visit possible.

I don’t like to come to areas where you’re already overly stressed until people at least can take a breath. But I did want to come to show our solidarity and support for the government and people of Thailand. It was very important to me personally, and I thank you for adding the work that comes with planning a visit like this on top of everything else you do every day.

And I’m pleased that I’ll be going with the ambassador now to an evacuation center, where I can meet some of the people directly affected. And last night, I was also very pleased to announce additional aid that will be coming to Thailand, a whole-of-government effort in our government, civilian and military. And I hope that we can send a strong message that, as devastating as these historic floods have been, Thailand will come back even better. The resilience and the optimism of the Thai people will definitely win the day, and the United States will be your partner every step of the way.

And I want to thank you for everything this community has done. I’ve heard so much about it, and I am grateful for all of it. For example, you’ve donated more than a million dollars in relief supplies and disaster assistance. You have a Marine team surveying flood damage. You’ve got AID and ELCA working on – with their Thai counterparts to also assess damages. You’ve donated boats and life-vests to the Thai authorities, supplied satellite assistance, prepared first aid packages, volunteered at kitchens, given blood, packed sandbags, just about everything.

And all of this – while most of you may have been spared from the ravages of the flood, but I know that hundreds of our local staff have been flooded out of their homes, and I heard of the teenage daughter of one our staffers who was trapped on the second floor of her house for three weeks. So I appreciate your dedication. Many of you have continued to come to work, despite your own personal hardships. And I’m just extremely grateful to you.

And our U.S. staff, thank you for raising more than $25,000 for your Thai colleagues. Our community liaison office has been especially busy getting housing for displaced families, doing what we can to keep children occupied since schools are closed. And I know many of you opened your homes, people like Lenore Nash, a first tour office manager, who has taken in a family of three. Charles Hughes, an assistant GSO, has turned his apartment over to a local colleague who has a small baby. The ambassador has lost track of how many people are at her residence. (Laughter.)

These are difficult times, but you have come through one more time, just as many of you did during the riots when Bangkok was ablaze with burning buildings and violence. And we are supporting the peaceful transition, the free, fair election that was held in August, because we so value our relationship with Thailand and the strong democratic traditions and institutions that we are supporting.

Now, I want to thank you also for making it possible for me to brag on you, which I love doing everywhere, that once again you have demonstrated the highest values of this mission and this post. And I want thank U.S. Government and locally engaged staff alike. And I’m not forgetting Chiang Mai. Hello, Chiang Mai. I know you’re still keeping your eyes and ears open on all that’s going on, political activities in Burma, drug traffickers, human traffickers, and the like. I had a great visit to Chiang Mai many years ago, and so I have some visual image of where you are, and I thank you for your service.

So whether you are one of the doctors, scientists, or experts working in our government agencies to find cures to some of the world’s most dangerous diseases – we’ve made some big breakthroughs here in preventing HIV transmission from mother to child – or you’re processing visas, you’re doing the post support unit, processing paperwork for FSOs all over the region, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan and so much more, you really exemplify what we mean by smart power.

So I am deeply grateful to you. As I said in my press event with the prime minister last night,we are optimistic and we’re confident we’re going to do everything we can to help our friends recover from this terrible, historic flood.

So now let me just quickly shake hands as I’m on the way to the evacuation center. Thank you all so much. I hope eventually you get a little bit of rest, but I’m grateful to each and every one of you. (Cheers and applause.)

PRN: 2011/T55-13