In January, French Ambassador to Thailand Thierry Mathou officially opened the French consular agency office in Hua Hin.
Following the opening, Hua Hin Today spoke to Stéphane Rousseau, in his role of Honorary Consul to discuss some of the ways the consular office can support French expatriates in Hua Hin.
How long have you been in Thailand and Hua Hin?
I have lived in Thailand for 22 years. I first came to Thailand after spending 3 years in Laos as part of the compulsory military service. After spending a few years in Bangkok, I moved to Cha Am and have been in Hua Hin for the last two years.
What made you decide to put yourself forward as a candidate for the post and how did the opening of the Consular Agency of France in Hua Hin come about?
I am a fluent Thai speaker and worked as a registered translator with the French Embassy for a number of years.
As part of this I assisted the former honorary consul in Hua Hin.
This enabled me to get a good understanding of the role and in fact it was almost like I knew a large amount of the job already.
How many French expats in Thailand and in Hua Hin?
There are approximately 13,000 French nationals in Thailand who have registered with the French Embassy in Bangkok. Among those, 70 percent are men, with 30 percent of those registered 60 years of age or older.
In Hua Hin or rather the area which falls under my jurisdiction which is from Phetchaburi to Chumpon, there are about 700 French nationals who have registered with the embassy.
There are of course likely many more but these are just people who have registered with the embassy.
The French expatriate community in Thailand is the second largest community of French people in Asia, after China.
How will you be able to support French people and companies in your new role?
Most of the people here are retirees, not so many people involved in business.
However, I mainly provide support in an administrative role, so that includes legalising signatures and making certified copies of documents. For example, I can legalise a power of attorney if someone needs to sell assets abroad.
French retirees have a requirement to prove they are alive in order to keep receiving their pension, so providing the necessary documentation for this is something I do a lot.
All of these services save French nationals in Hua Hin a trip to the embassy in Bangkok, it also helps to ease some of the workload from consular staff at the embassy too.
There are actually several French honorary consuls in Thailand: Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Samui, and Khon Kaen. Phuket will be in place soon too.
How often are you in contact with the French embassy in Bangkok?
Regularly, because as well as the administrative services we provide, there is also the social aspect of the role, where we provide assistance to those in need.
This could see us helping people who are perhaps isolated or for example, are in hospital without insurance and with no one to help them.
How are you able to assist someone who is admitted to hospital but does not have insurance?
There are a number of ways we can offer support in this situation. We can put them in touch with the embassy and other relevant organisations who can try to contact family in France.
There is an association that can provide some financial support in certain cases, who we can contact too.
However, the embassy itself does not provide financial support. For example, the embassy would not pay for a flight ticket back to France for the individual.
What are your thoughts on Hua Hin and its tourism industry, particularly regarding its post pandemic recovery?
Travelling to Thailand is now more complicated than in the past. I know of people who have cancelled their trips here because they were afraid of a number of things, such as possible closing of borders and were also put off by the new requirements for people entering the country.
My hope is that Thailand can now go back to the time when travel was easier and people are able to plan ahead – that’s not really possible now.
I think tourism in Hua Hin will only start to improve significantly when travel requirements are eased further.
What are your thoughts on the infrastructure improvements in Hua Hin – the airport expansion and new rail line, for example?
It all sounds really good. I think eventually, Hua Hin will be a server city for Bangkok, perhaps you will see people commuting from Hua Hin to Bangkok.
In the future, people may work some time in the office in Bangkok and the rest of the time from their home in Hua Hin.
What are some of your favourite things about Hua Hin?
When I lived in Cha Am, I really enjoyed the change of pace from the week to the weekend.
During the week it was very quiet but at the weekend it would get quite busy with people from Bangkok, but I liked that. I liked the atmosphere.
For Hua Hin, there is not one thing in particular. I spend a lot of time with my family and Hua Hin is a great place for that.
And of course, I have to talk about some of the great French restaurants in Hua Hin, which I enjoy. It is difficult for me to choose one, but I can say that there are several restaurants in Hua Hin serving really good French food.
The French consular agency office is located on Soi 112.
Services available by appointment only.
For more information visit: https://agenceconsulairehuahin.fr/