Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena made a state visit to Thailand from 1–4 November at the invitation of Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries based on a long shared cultural and religious history. The visit coincided with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Sri Lanka, and in recognition of the historic occasion, 60 monks accompanied Sirisena from Sri Lanka.
The president brought with him sacred relics of the Buddha from Mahiyangana Rajamaha Viharaya in Sri Lanka and a 3½-ton stone statue of the Buddha, which was presented as a gift to Wat Dhammaram, a temple in the former capital of Ayutthaya that was the residence of the renowned monk Phra Upali Maha Thera before he traveled to Sri Lanka in 1755. The sacred relics have been placed on temporary public display at Buddha Monthon Monastery in Nakhon Pathom until 16 November. The monks who accompanied Sirisena led chanting at a ceremony to inaugurate the exhibition, which was attended by prime minister Prayut and other dignitaries.
Government officials and business representatives of the two countries later discussed promoting bilateral cooperation in a broad range of areas, including trade and education. According to a Thai government official, the visit was aimed at strengthening economic, political, cultural, religious, tourism, and technical cooperation. Regional cooperation was also on the agenda, through initiatives such as the Bay of Bengal Initiatives for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), an organization involving countries in South and Southeast Asia. (ColomboPage)
Monks from Mahiyangana Rajamaha Viharaya in Sri Lanka at a ceremony to move relics of the Buddha to Buddha Monthon Monastery in Thailand. From bangkokpost.com
On 4 November, Sirisena had an audience at Sra Pathum Palace with Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who warmly welcomed the Sri Lankan president. Sirisena thanked Princes Sirindhorn for the hospitality shown by the Thai government and extended an invitation to the princess to visit Sri Lanka.
The close cultural and religious ties between Sri Lanka and Thailand, founded on Buddhism, date back hundreds of years. Led by Venerable Dimbulagala Mahakasyapa, a delegation of Sri Lankan monks visited Thailand to propagate Buddhism following reforms of the Theravada sangha initiated by Parakramabahu I (r. 1153–86), ruler of the Sri Lankan kingdom of Polonnaruwa. A century later, Rama Khamheng (r. 1279–98), the third king of the Phra Ruang dynasty, held an audience with a group of Sri Lankan monks who were residing in the Thai city of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and offered to build them a forest monastery. Then, in the 18th century, following the decline of the sangha in Sri Lanka as a result of the Portuguese invasion, King Boromkot (r. 1733–58) of Thailand sent a monastic delegation to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Sri Lankan king Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (r. 1750–82) to receive upasampada (higher ordination), enabling them to confer upasampada on others.
According to Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Thailand, Kshenuka Senewiratne, relations between the two countries stem from a shared religious belief that started when Theravada Buddhism was introduced to the kingdom from Sri Lanka. “Although we have enjoyed a diplomatic relationship for 60 years, our religious ties have been strong since Lanka Vamsa Buddhism entered Thailand 800 years ago,” Senewiratne said. (Bangkok Post)
Thailand - Sri Lanka Relations (ThaibizSriLanka)
Sri Lankan leader seeks to boost trade ties (Bangkok Post)
Cultural Exchanges between Thailand and Sri Lanka (Lotus Communication Network)
Sri Lanka, Thailand discuss boosting trade and religious ties (ColomboPage)
President Maithripala Sirisena meets Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand (Asian Tribune)