Wednesday, November 6, 2013
President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton meet king of Thailand
BANGKOK -- At 4:45 p.m., the motorcade arrived at the Siriraj Hospital, where Obama and Clinton were to meet King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 85 in December and has been hospitalized for illness since 2009.
Reporters were led to the 14th floor to a wing with the name: WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Tissue Banking. Reporters, accompanied by White House photographer Pete Souza, were led into a meeting room where we were told to bow toward the king.
The king was sitting in one of 10 armchairs with flower-pattered beige padding and gold trim on the arms and legs. Aides were dressed in formal white military uniforms, but the king was in a navy blue suit with a lighter blue tie and matching pocket square. One military aide was kneeling behind him.
Obama entered the room with Clinton trailing behind, along with another American woman. The president strode toward the king, who remained seated and quiet. Obama greeted him, “Your majesty,” and grasped his hand. “It’s a great honor.” Clinton followed and said, “Hello again. It’s so good to see you again. And my husband sends you his very best regards. Thank you so much.”
Obama took a seat next to the king, and Clinton took a seat to one side, with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra sitting across from her.
“It’s a great honor to meet with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. We send greetings from all the people of the United States who are so grateful for the friendship of our two countries and are great admirers of yours -- your wisdom and your leadership," Obama said.
The king responded in a very slow, soft tone. It was hard to hear him. Obama then smiled and said: “Elections in the United States are very long but it’s very gratifying to know people still have confidence in me. I thought it was very important that my first trip after the elections was to Thailand, which is such a great ally.”
The king then handed Obama a few gifts, including a red box, which Obama pulled back the lid. Reporters could not see inside. The president smiled and responded, “This is beautiful. Thank you so much. This is lovely.” The American woman next to Clinton said the gift was for “Mrs. Obama.”
Obama said, "Oh, thank you, Michelle, my wife” would “appreciate it.” Clinton responded, "She'll look very good in that color, Mr. President."
The president then picked up a photo album, which he said contained photos of all the U.S. presidents and first ladies the King has met with, starting with Eisenhower. Obama began flipping through the pages to show the king. It included Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Nancy Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Obama remarked to the king that the last page was left blank for a photo of the two of them together. He then pointed to a framed lithograph that was on an easel nearby. It was a mural of Thai and U.S. flags, that Obama said was specially commissioned for the king who is an art lover. It was “to symbolize friendship,” Obama said.
Reporters were led out of the room as the group continued to talk, and Obama could be overheard saying he met with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bali last year and that it “strengthened our relationship” as we left.