Weekly Local Biography

  US Consul-General Bea Camp

Beatrice Camp (“Just call me Bea”), the newly arrived US government’s representative, has been sent here as our new consul-general. After spending an hour with this lady, I can honestly say that she comes over as one of the “nicest” people you will ever meet. The US has found a wonderful replacement for the C-G’s office!

She was born in Montgomery in Alabama, the younger of two children born to a father who worked for the US Air Force and a teacher mother. However, since her father was contracted to the USAF, he also had to move around the world on USAF business. One move was to Bangkok, back in 1961, where he worked for the US Information Agency. Bea was sent to the international school, and she very quickly enjoyed her new surroundings. “I loved Bangkok,” said Bea. “I rode horses at the Polo Club, took samlors, I liked Thai food. It was fun,” she said, with eyes still sparkling with the memory.

Unfortunately, her father died and she returned to America, to Washington DC, to finish her high schooling. By the time that period of her life was almost over, she was the editor of the high school paper, and so she decided that she wanted to be a journalist.

Towards that end she went to a Liberal Arts College for their four year course, working on local newspapers (similar to Chiangmai Mail) for one month each year, but before she was swallowed up in copy paper and printer’s ink she became aware of an experimental fellowship program in Asia. “Remembering Bangkok, I wanted to come to Thailand, so I applied for Chiang Mai - and got it,” said Bea triumphantly.

That fellowship saw her working at Chiang Mai University, teaching English for the next two and a half years, but like all good things that must come to an end, she had to return to the US.

She worked through some small unimportant jobs until she became a copy editor for the Dow Jones financial news group in New York. “There was the day that I dropped three zeros from IBM’s quarterly figures,” said Bea, laughing at the memory of the chaos she could have caused, if the slip had not been caught by a vigilant sub-editor down the line!

But by now she was married to a Foreign Service officer in the US State Department offices, and she knew that her life was to be one of travel. Their first assignment was to China, with Bea influencing her husband’s decision with her interest in Asia engendered by her two spells in Thailand. As a spouse she was entitled to study with State Department sponsorship, so she sat and learned Chinese in Washington for the next 12 months.

Bea and her husband spent 12 months in Taiwan and two years in Beijing, but Bea, during this period, was also accepted by the Foreign Service as an officer, and returned to Washington for her own training.

Remaining in Asia, the State Department, now with two Foreign Service Officers under the one roof, sent them both to Bangkok, for Bea’s third stay in the Kingdom.

I asked Bea how they managed to get postings together. “We always got jobs together - but they were not necessarily the ‘best’ jobs for career advancement,” she admitted.

The next joint posting was away from Asia, and it seems that Bea’s husband had the major influence in this decision. They went to Sweden for four years. “My husband like Bergman movies,” said Bea! Whilst that on paper sounds a fairly flimsy reason, I am sure there were other ones! Bea describing the posting, “It was a terrific job for me. It was a wonderful assignment.” However, she did add the rider, “I just didn’t know it at the time.”

By now Bea was also juggling the duties of motherhood, as well as the Foreign Service, and they returned to Washington for three years, putting the children in American schools.

However, when in the Foreign Service, you obviously do not spend too much time unpacking, as they were soon off to Hungary, “My husband’s choice. It was fabulous, great food and wine and the history!”

After three years it was time to return home as her youngest son wanted to finish his high school education, and her husband wanted to retire. Bea did say, “None of these (moves) were huge sacrifices.” So the next five years were spent in Washington. She also described being in the Foreign Service as being one where the officers are looked after. “You change jobs frequently, but you’ll always have a job.”

With the family settled and educated, Bea the world traveler and job changer was ready again. This time for her fourth stint in Thailand, and second in Chiang Mai, now as the new consul-general, which she described as, “There’s no better job by my standards!” She also very quickly added, “I wasn’t plotting this for 20 years!” all said with a huge smile and a laugh.

I asked whether she had ever found that her duties in the Foreign Service could have been at cross-purposes with her own personal political ideals, but she parried with, “You are representing the United States. I’ve never been in the position where I couldn’t live with myself. As you get older and wiser you realize there’s a long term aspect to life.”

So now Bea (and her husband) are here in Chiang Mai, and what was in their luggage? Their bicycles! “I like bicycling. We’ve joined the Sunday Bike Club. I like it as a form of transportation, and promoting cycling is a politically worthwhile cause.”

Bea Camp comes through as an amazing woman. Despite being a State Department official, she has retained her own persona, but happy to acknowledge that the Department has given her great opportunities in life. She is the personification of “Carpe diem!” I am sure you will enjoy Chiang Mai once again, Bea!