Agenda Daily


I attended the recent meeting of the Indonesia Malaysia Thailand- Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) at Batam, The Province of Rhiau Archilelago, Indonesia a couple of days ago. One of the points raised was the issue of Halal Hub brought up aggressively by the Thai delegates to the IMT-GT Joint Business Council (JBC). It is clear that Thailand is poised strongly to tap the world Islamic market of around 1.7 billion Muslims in 2003 and taking an average increase of 2 % yearly will be about 1.8 billion Muslims all over the world in 2005.


Thailand is land of good entrepreneurs who are able to look at business opportunities. For a country that does not have much oil and gas its economy is thriving compared to other neighouring countries with more natural resources but highly corrupted administrations. It has a very robust and thriving tourism industry. The country has no taboos and anything goes.

Thus it is very popular with western tourists who go to Thailand when Europe is having winter. They like the tropical climate, seafood , friendly people and whatever attractions that it has by way of nightlife. By comparison Malaysia can be considered more conversative. But conservatism also has its advantages which I will be touching in my next article below.

Thus it is no surprise that Thai entrepreneurs identify the potential market of the Muslim world. Access to this huge worldwide Muslim market of 1.8 billion population will means more sales of their market. Of special mention the target will definitely be the oil rich Middle East or what some people calls the West Asian region especially now with the oil price at 59 Dollars per barrel . Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, The Emirates and Qatar would be good market to penetrate.

Notwithstanding its entrepreneurial talents Thailand looks tainted in the eyes of Muslim World and OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference). The main issue here is its treatment of its minority Muslim populations in the southern three provinces.

Endless stories have emerged from the south where the Thai Army and Police units continuously arrested Muslim imams and clergy . And that these Muslim leaders disappearing. There is no rule of law and due process of justice. In fact there is absolute hatred by the Muslim populations toward these Army and Police units. And they conducted revenge attacks on these forces which they consider evil and unfair and also on non Muslim Thais who they consider as outsiders.

The Islamic world would like to see Thailand giving a fair deal to its minority Muslim peoples who are citizens of Thailand anyway. There should be rule of law in Southern Thailand. The government must get the local people to be involved in the administration of their own provinces. The Malaysian model of federalism, where each state/province has certain powers, can be one of the models to be considerd by Thailand.

Thailand must be serious when it said it wants to bring development to the South. These should not remain just as a political rhetorics. There is much to be gain by being close to the Muslim world.

Otherwise the aggressiveness of the Thai entrepreneurs trying to do trade with the Islamic world will come to nothing.

As the saying goes "you cannot have the cake and eat it"



The current weather in London even though hot is pleasant to me if compared to Kuala Lumpur's humid weather. Shopping along the Oxford Street is an expensive affair except for the thrill of window shopping.

I remembered the first time I was sent to London in 1985 by the present Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dato Seri Syed Hamid Albar who was then my boss at Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad to attend a three month management course. I remembered that I arrived at Heathrow Airport sometimes in September of the year. The weather was cool then as autumn had began.

Bank Bumi (the popular short name of the Bank ) had booked me at a hotel somewhere in Russell Square whereas my place of training was at Bryanston Square near the former Malaysia Hall , quite a distant away. Naturally I have to change to a nearer hotel and subsequently I stayed at a B&B (Bed and Breakfast) accommodation. I was charged only Pound Sterling 3 per night. The rate of the Hotel at Russell Square was Pound Sterling 80 per night.

I had really to save my training allowances because I was bringing my family to join me in London later in November of the year at the of my course. It was a memorable holiday for us then as it was our first visit to London. I brought my family to visit all the tourist attractions like Madame Tussaud, Buckingham Palace, The London Tower and others.

Now coming back to London this time I have a lot to reminisce. There is a lot of fond memories for me and my family in London and Britain. Three of my children did their education here in Britain. I also had had the opportunity to attend the AMP (The Advance Management Programme) at Templeton College , Oxford University in 1998.

Without doubt Britain is a great country especially her education system. This education system had produced over the years, good administrators, businessmen and all the other professionals. Otherwise how could you explain the creation and maintenance of the British Empire where at one time the sun never sets.

But now if you would walk along Edgware Road long the "Arab Street " of London you would be finding fewer and fewer Arabs. Formerly the Arabs and their whole families converged on London to escape the hot summer months of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, The Emirates and Qatar. Now the numbers are dwindling as they have other alternatives.

The main convergent point now is in the east, namely, Malaysia. Our country meets their requirements. There are lots of halal foods. It is a Muslim country with a lot facilities for the families. Shopping for the fathers and mothers and games and fun for the children. Thus we can observe that the number of Arab tourists coming to Malaysia are growing by the year.

These people are long stayers and they are also big spenders at the same time. So we as a nation should and must take good care of them with our friendliness and welcoming attitudes.

Thus Britain's loss is Malaysia's gain.

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