Thai princess tells Peres: 'I feel Israeli in my heart'

Chulabhorn Mahidol in Israel to promote bilateral cooperation in science research, gets lightly injured in car crash prior to meeting.

May 17, 2011 02:28
3 minute read.
Thai Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol and Shimon Peres.

thai princess and peres_311. (photo credit: Mark Neyman / GPO)

Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand, the youngest daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, is on her sixth visit to Israel. But it is not quite the same Israel as she saw when she was last here 12 years ago.

The princess confessed to President Shimon Peres to a great affinity for Israel, recalling that she first visited in the 1970s, and is constantly looking for opportunities to come again.

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She has even added an Israeli sobriquet to her name – Tzilla – and used it when signing the visitors’ book.

A qualified epileptologist (a neurologist who treats epilepsy), Chulabhorn, 53, is heavily involved in promoting scientific research and is a guest lecturer in chemistry at Mahidol University in Bangkok. Her efforts to promote scientific collaboration earned her the UNESCO Einstein Medal in 1986. She was the first Asian invited to join Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry as an Honorary Fellow.

At a meeting on Monday with Peres in his office in Jerusalem, the slightly built, frail-looking princess shared with him her impressions of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, which she had visited the previous day for a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the hospital and Thailand’s Chulabhorn Research Institute. They will cooperate on matters relating to cancer research and treatment.

There will be an exchange of doctors and nurses so that each can benefit from the know-how of the other.

Recovering from a broken pelvis, the princess almost didn’t make it to the president’s office.

She is presently unable to climb stairs, and there are two relatively short staircases leading from the ground floor entrance to the president’s office. The agreed upon solution was to transport the princess in a wheelchair, which she insisted on vacating when she reaching the landing at the top of the 14 stairs, so that she could walk to her meeting with the president. An aide respectfully held her arm and guided her, then sank to his knees after they entered the office.

En route to Beit Hanassi, the princess’s motorcade was almost involved in a traffic accident and the driver of her vehicle braked hard unexpectedly. The princess’s medical advisers tried to persuade her to go to hospital for an examination in case the jolt had affected her pelvis, but she refused. It was only after talking to Peres that she agreed to have a medical check-up.

Peres asked after King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been suffering poor health for some time. The princess said that her 83-year-old father had just undergone a successful operation to remove fluid from his brain. This surgical procedure would enable him to move his limbs more freely, she said.

Peres said he would pray for the king’s complete recovery.

The president recalled his visits to the king in the royal palace where there is a garden with blooms produced from Israeli seeds.

Peres is interested in brain research and tried to steer the princess in this direction, while acknowledging the importance of cancer research precisely because there are so many kinds of cancer that make it difficult to envisage a universal cure.

The princess took this aspect a step further, saying that cancer is a very complicated disease, with more than a hundred specific types requiring different care.

Cancer has become a major source of concern in Thailand, where nearly half the population has one kind of cancer or another, she said.

On a lighter note, Peres spoke of the many Israeli tourists who travel to Thailand, in response to which princess Chulabhorn told Peres that he has an open invitation at a date to suit his convenience. The executives of the national carriers of both countries have been in negotiation for some time and are on the verge of signing an industrial R&D agreement.

Accompanying the princess on her travels through Israel was Thai Ambassador-designate Nuttavudh Photisaro, who has yet to present his credentials to Peres.

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