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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thai Queen Fills in for King on Visit

APThailand's Queen Sirikit passing an honor guard after getting off her plane at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Monday.
It would have seemed logical for Russia to invite the Thai king to celebrate 110 years of diplomatic ties.

There's just one problem: King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has ruled longer than any other living monarch, took an oath to never leave Thailand.

So it was his wife, Queen Sirikit, who arrived at Vnukovo airport Monday to kick off the celebrations, a visit President Vladimir Putin said would "open a new page in Russian-Thai relations."

"The traditions of friendship, mutual respect, and trust set more than a century ago continue to define modern Russian-Thai ties," Putin said in a statement posted on the Kremlin's web site.

The septuagenarian queen's sojourn will be a "historic event in the relations between the two countries and will add a powerful impulse to intensify Russian-Thai cooperation in all areas," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Monday, Itar-Tass reported.

Queen Sirikit is scheduled to meet Putin on Thursday after he returns from Guatemala, where the International Olympic Committee will announce the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, for which Sochi is one of the three finalists.

While Thailand has long been a favorite destination for Russian tourists and Thai dishes dot the menus of Moscow restaurants, the state visit, which follows one by Putin to Thailand in 2003, points to the growing importance of Southeast Asia for Russia.

One of Russia's key trading partners in the region, Thailand has significant oil reserves and could serve as a way station for Russian oil and gas.

Television personality Eis, who hosts a program on Feng Shui and teaches Thai language at Moscow State University, said in an interview published Monday in Komsomolskaya Pravda that Queen Sirikit was typically accompanied by an entourage of 50 to 60 people on foreign visits. "Governesses, chefs, and other royal attendants: They all visit the capitals with her highness," she said.

Ceremony and protocol remain vital when entertaining Thai royalty. The Thai language has several different dialects, including one exclusively used to address royal figures. "It's unclear whether the president's administration is familiar with all the formalities of the Thai queen's protocol," Eis said, noting that improperly addressing the queen could be taken as an insult to the nation.

During Sirikit's stay in Moscow, which is her first trip abroad in five years, she will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and upon his return, Putin will host her and her entourage at a state banquet in the Kremlin, where Thai handicrafts will be displayed to promote Thai culture and arts, Itar-Tass reported.

After the banquet, the queen will visit several museums and take in a ballet before being whisked off to St. Petersburg to accept an honorary doctorate in Eastern languages and cultures Monday at St. Petersburg State University.

In May, deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accepted a similar honor in Moscow and was later robbed of several thousand dollars at a McDonald's restaurant on the Arbat.