US spending $284m on new CM mission
A new building for the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai will be ready for use within the next two years.
On the city's Super Highway, the site is expected to be fully functional in March 2024, the US Consulate General said on Wednesday.
Sean K O'Neil, Chiang Mai US Consul General, said that when an American Consulate General office first opened in northern Thailand in 1950 to oversee 15 provinces in the region, all US missions since have been handled from what was originally a residence next to the Ping River and White Pagoda.
As the site was never designed to be an office, a decision was made to rehouse it several years ago.
"[W]e have been operating in the same place for 72 years. It is time to move to a modern, safe and environmentally friendly office building," Mr O'Neil said.
He said the design will take inspiration from Thailand's Lanna culture yet also feature high-tech advances to help achieve its eco-friendly goal. The project is budgeted at around US$284 million (9.5 billion baht), including land, design and construction.
The current building will serve as a private residence for the US consul, Mr O'Neil said.
Some see such a large investment as part of Washington's aim to contain China's growing influence in the Mekong region.
Mr O'Neil dismissed these as "conspiracy theories". "I have heard the rumours like everyone else. It is unfortunate, because ... that ignores the work Thais and Americans have been doing through these 72 years to improve the livelihoods of people in the North," he said.
He said the two sides have profited from their cooperation in various areas including health, education, security, environmental protection and reducing transborder crime.