Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will visit China on Oct 8-10 to discuss 10 key matters with his Chinese counterpart, including how to further strengthen bilateral relations and boost Thai-Chinese tourism cooperation.
The PM disclosed the plans on Saturday when asked about the possibility of renewing the Thai-Chinese memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the loaning of Chinese ambassador pandas to Thailand, which will expire in the next few months.
Mr Srettha was on his visit to Chiang Mai which started on Saturday. The prime minister said Thai-Chinese relations will be one of the 10 topics up for discussion with China during his upcoming trip.
Tourism cooperation is also expected to be among the topics up for discussion, said government spokesman Chai Wacharonke.
Asked whether it is the new government's intention to maintain a balance between Thailand's relations with the US and China, especially as the prime minister is also set to travel to US this week for similar talks, Mr Chai said that wasn't the case.
''The truth is Thailand now treats both the US and China equally as its two major trade partners,'' he said.
When he attends the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78) in New York City, Mr Srettha will have the opportunity to meet US President Joe Biden, US trade representatives and major US companies, said Mr Chai.
That will come as a good chance for the PM to encourage US investors to invest more in Thailand, said the spokesman.
He also plans talks with big tech firms when he is there.
As for China, the cabinet last week approved a visa-free scheme for Chinese and Kazakhstan travellers from Sept 25 until Feb 29 next year.
From his discussions with local tourism business operators in Chiang Mai, for instance, Mr Srettha said he has learnt the number of bookings by Chinese visitors to the northern province has risen significantly, following the government's announcement on the visa-free programme.
In terms of the expected further surge in Chinese tourist numbers coming to Thailand, Mr Srettha said he had also stressed to the Chiang Mai police chief the importance of raising security for international visitors in the northern province.
At the same time, he said the police are responsible for intensively implementing security measures aimed at countering illegal activities involving those Chinese nationals who come to operate shady businesses or even commit crimes on Thai soil.
''Extra measures also are needed to deter illegal activities which might mar the good spirit behind the government's efforts to stimulate Thailand's tourism-dependent economy,'' he said.
Mr Srettha said he has previously had talks with the Chinese ambassador to Thailand regarding those pieces of fake news which have tarnished Thailand's reputation for tourism and it was agreed that a more proactive public relations strategy will be adopted to curb any repeats of the problem, he said.
As for the hazardous ultra-fine PM2.5 dust pollution which seasonally affects northern Thailand, an important destination for many Chinese and other international tourists, the government has begun negotiating with neighbouring countries to reduce transboundary haze pollution, which normally stems from man-made wildfires, the prime minister told the media.
The PM also announced that construction work on Chiang Mai's second airport is in the pipeline.
Asked if the 30-day visa-free programme would likely be extended to cover other countries, Mr Srettha said the government would look at the matter on a country-by-country basis.
To offer a 30-day visa-free programme to visitors from Western countries who normally need more than a month to stay in Thailand while they get away from the cold weather in their countries might not be the most convenient solution for them, he said.
Mr Srettha also on Saturday called for an end to the long-running furore over the cost of a charter flight arranged to take him and some other cabinet ministers to the UN general assembly, saying the government spokesman and the secretary-general of the prime minister have offered a detailed explanation as to why the charter flight was chosen over the Royal Thai Air Force's service.
The charter flight's 30 million baht cost was actually less than the cost of travelling on a specially laid-on RTAF flight, he said.
In answer to calls for more reductions in energy prices, Mr Srettha pledged that fuel prices, too, will be cut when a study being conducted on this matter finishes.
The government, in its first official cabinet meeting that was held on Wednesday, approved measures aimed at slashing both diesel and electricity prices, he said.