The United States is committed to Thailand's long-term recovery from the December 2004 tsunami that devastated large swathes of Southeast Asia, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"Thailand and the United States have long been very, very good friends and I'm only happy that we could build on our platform of our friendship to be here in the time of need," the secretary said July 11 while visiting the Bang Sak School in Takuapa, Thailand, with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.
Commenting on the reconstruction efforts initiated by the U.S. and Thai governments to help Bang Sak School students, Rice said, "We will continue the efforts to rebuild after the tsunami and I look forward to coming back and seeing some of these wonderful children in universities one day because of the great work that is being done here."
Acts of compassion from individual Americans, whose hearts were touched by the tragedy, helped foster bonds of friendship between the United States and Thailand, the secretary said.
"It is really the heart of America through individual philanthropy, that's how we really show our heart," Rice said to the students and Sathirathai. "And the hundreds of thousands of Americans -- really the millions of Americans, who either gave of their resources or came here to work, that's what America is all about."
Sathirathai expressed appreciation to Rice for the assistance provided by the U.S. government and the American people in helping Thailand move beyond the scarring effects of the tsunami.
"[T]he continued outpouring of hearts, outpouring of compassion from the American people represented by Secretary Rice is a testimony of the saying that 'a friend in need is a friend indeed,'" he said. "Thank you very much, indeed."
Thailand was the second stop for Rice on a four-nation swing through Asia that started in China and will also include visits to Japan and South Korea. The secretary is traveling in East Asia to discuss bilateral issues as well as the regional problem of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
For more information, see Secretary Rice's Trip to East Asia.
Following is the transcript of the press conference:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
July 12, 2005
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
And Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai
Tsunami Reconstruction Program at Bang Sak School
July 11, 2005
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much. We were just having a discussion about the need to bring teachers -- to train teachers. And I'm going to go back and look into that because I know there are a lot of people who would like to teach these wonderful children. And I'm very glad that together with the Thai Government and with the United States and with the wonderful people of this area, that we have been able to help to rebuild this school. I look forward to coming back to the completed school. I look forward to helping to see if we can get training for the teachers. I think that's a very good idea and I'll talk to the (inaudible) on our way back about how we might be able to do that. So thank you for bringing that up. And these are absolutely beautiful children and I'm sure they're very smart, too. And I'm sure that they work very hard in school. The tsunami and the devastation that it caused touched the hearts of so many people around the world. And I know that we have here students from the United States who are helping and who perhaps had never thought that they might be in Thailand, but find themselves here out of their hearts. And I want to thank you for what you're doing here because the true expression of friendship between people is that you are there for your friends in time of need.
Thailand and the United States have long been very, very good friends and I'm only happy that we could build on our platform of our friendship to be here in the time of need. And you can be sure that we will continue the efforts to rebuild after the tsunami and I look forward to coming back and I also look forward to seeing some of these wonderful children in universities one day because of the great work that is being done here. Thank you very much.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SATHIRATHAI: We thought we'd -- I would like to explain to students what Secretary Rice has said. (Speaking in Thai) And I say some words to the press as well. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of everyone here to express our appreciation to Secretary Rice. Your presence means a lot. The United States is one of the first countries, I would say to press, that helped us. They sent planes for the search and rescue, providing all the help. And Secretary Rice, your presence here, your words of encouragement, your expression of concern is a real moral boost for the people in this area, for the pupils, because these (inaudible) many of them are orphans, so this encouragement is something that is a moral boost for those who are in the process of rebuilding their lives. I would like to say also to the members of the press that the continued outpouring of hearts, outpouring of compassion from the American people represented by Secretary Rice is a testimony of the saying that "A friend in need is a friend indeed." Thank you very much, indeed. And we'll be working together closely.
(Speaking in Thai)
MODERATOR: Let the students sing a song.
SECRETARY RICE: Great. Thank you.
STUDENTS: (Singing ABC Song)
SECRETARY RICE: Can we sing it again?
SECRETARY RICE: And I'll sing, too.
STUDENTS: Yeah, sure.
SECRETARY RICE: (Sings ABC's with children) (Applause.) Great job. (Inaudible) beautiful. You have a beautiful voice, so does everyone. That was really good. Thank you. Thank you.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER SATHIRATHAI: Thank you Dr. (inaudible). I would like, again, to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation (inaudible) Secretary Rice, Secretary of the United States, to (inaudible) to deliver this message to our American friends. We believe the outpouring of compassion will raise self-encouragement (inaudible) that boosts the morale of the people who have been hit by the tsunami (inaudible) carry that very (inaudible) message. (inaudible) were never (inaudible) boost the morale of small kids, orphans, military, who have lost lives of their relatives. And now they are working towards rebuilding their lives.
The help of the U.S. Government, of the American people, of (inaudible) government organizations (inaudible) touched us deeply. I can say to Secretary Rice you have won the hearts of the Thai people and you have won the hearts of the Asian. Thank you, again, for your visit, please.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. First of all, this has been a very inspiring visit. We, of course, honored the memories of those who have lost lives, and we are here celebrating the enormous spirit of the survivors. I want to thank (inaudible) and General thank you very much and (inaudible) studied in the United States (inaudible). It is a remarkable mobilization of the Army for humanitarian purposes. They're very (inaudible) with that.
I want to thank also the American volunteers who are here. I know that Americans went into their churches and their mosques and their synagogues to express their desire to help, and obviously some Americans came here. And how we celebrate the work that the United States Government has done to help here. It is really the heart of America through individual philanthropy, that's how we really show our heart. And the hundreds of thousands of Americans -- really the millions of Americans, who either gave of their resources or came here to work, that's what America is all about. And that's why Thailand and America share such great values.
And, again, to the kids and their teachers, I look forward to seeing you in University. I know that there's an dormitory that's being built here to honor the King's grandson, and that just shows that there really is no family in Thailand that was not touched by this terrible tragedy. I know that the grandson of the King was lost.
And so to all of you in Thailand, thank you for your friendship, but thank you especially for showing the (inaudible) over time. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY RICE: I'm here in Thailand to show how much the United States cares about Southeast Asia, how much we care about (inaudible). Thailand is our ASEAN dialogue partner. We have been talking about what will happen in Laos. We've been planning for that and I can assure that our commitment to the organization is very, very strong.
QUESTION: Madame, thank you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)