30 Jul, 2016
Bangkok – Both the causes of promoting Thailand as a Muslim-friendly destination and socio-cultural-economic integration within ASEAN took another giant leap forward with the organisation of the kingdom’s first World Halal Fest (WHF), an extravaganza of Thai-Muslim business, arts, music and culture, at the CentralWorld Shopping Complex, Thailand’s biggest mall.
Former ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Thailand’s first Thai-Muslim Foreign Minister, delivered the keynote address at the July 29 opening ceremony of the three-day event organised by the newly established Thai Muslim Trade Association (TMTA). Ambassadors from 11 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were in attendance, with pride of place being given to Malaysian Ambassador Dato Nazirah Hussain, the event’s primary diplomatic backer.
Described as a “colourful fiesta of Halal marvels like no other,” the event featured Thai and int’l Halal food & products, cultural shows, business talks and inspiring success stories with Thai-Muslim leaders and celebrities, as well as a Job Fair, Thailand’s first Halal career event. Visitors could get their names inscribed in Islamic calligraphy, buy great perfumes, enjoy a glass of teh-tarik, book a room or event at the growing number of halal hotels in Thailand or get henna designs painted on their hands.
One of the highlights of the event was the first public presence of the Institute of Islamic Art Thailand, established only this April. It positions itself as offering “Islamic Art by Thai people” with classes in calligraphy, design, science and culture, adding to the growing socio-cultural diversity of the country.
The fact that it was held for the first time in the prominent foyer area of CentralWorld Shopping Complex, one of Thailand’s most prominent world-class lifestyle destinations, made it even more attractive. Mr Isareit Chirathivat, Vice-President of the mall’s owning company, Central Pattana PLC, said he saw no reason why the Halal Fest could not become an annual event, especially in view of the vast potential of the global halal market that he had just heard about from Dr Surin.
Indeed, the timing was perfect. Bangkok’s shopping malls are buzzing with high-spending visitors from the Middle East and Islamic countries. Many were in the CentralWorld complex at the time and were attracted to the event upon hearing the recitation of the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, resonate during the opening ceremony.
The WHF is the first event organised by the TMTA, which was set up just in early 2015 and has grown into a network of more than 300 Muslim business owners, large and small, nationwide, both Thais and foreign residents. One of the committee members, Mr Marut Mekloy, a professional Thai-English interpreter and translator, said the “TMTA aims to be an organization that contributes to Thailand’s sustainable economic growth and to fostering even more viable, more competitive Muslim economic communities in the Kingdom.”
He said the average age of the TMTA executive committee members is in the early 30s. All “are determined to make a difference,” he said.
According to TMTA President Mr. Adule Wongsangiem, “One of TMTA’s core missions is to help drive Muslim businesspeople in Thailand to be competitive in the world marketplace, and we truly believe that this WHF event will be the first stepping stone for us to open doors of opportunities for our members and for the Thai Halal industry.”
Mr. Davudh Naveevongpanit, Head of the World Halal Fest project, stated that, “What we all try to achieve for WHF is a spectacular Halal fiesta of fun unlike no other, something that has never been experienced before in Thailand, and probably elsewhere too. We hope that WHF 2016 will help create a whole new standard for Muslim trade fairs in this country.”
The support of Ambassador Dato Nazirah underscored the ASEAN mission statement of forging “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” and meets the primary objectives of both the ASEAN economic and socio-cultural blueprints. By extension, it builds internal security and combats the anti-Muslim campaigns being waged in Thailand, with the help of a large corps of well-organised Islamophobic extremist Western expatriates.
It also sends a strong message to the leaders of Myanmar about how they can build better relations with their own Muslim minorities.
The emergence of energetic millennials-led groups like the TMTA is also good news for the Tourism Authority of Thailand which has embarked upon a strategy to promote Thailand as a Muslim-friendly destination and needs strong partnerships with like-minded, action-oriented Thai-Muslims.
Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil also spoke at the event on the potential of Thailand as a Muslim-friendly destination.
Quote from the WHF media release: 7 Reasons Why You Should Attend the WHF 2016!
1. Marvel at a wondrous array of Halal products, food and services from Thailand and overseas from over 50 participating booths occupying two floors of the Eden Zone in CentralWorld, and be entertained by a host of Halal entertainment and activities in two parallel stages on two floors!
2. “How You Look in Muslim Attires” is a special activity that invites non-Muslims to feel for themselves what it’s like to wear Muslim Attires such as hijab, abayas, long shirts and turbans. What’s more! There’s a Photo Booth where you can get you cute photos in Muslim apparel taken and printed out instantly! And if you share your special moments on social media, you could win a special FREE return air ticket to Istanbul!
3. Appreciate the ‘Colors of Muslim World’ through the eyes of celebrities and leading Muslim personalities including Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Toe-Silly Fools, Nook- Sutthida, Wannasingha Prasertkul, Ajarn Yingsak Jonglertjessadawong, Dr. Ismael Lutfi Japakiya, Dr. Pakorn Priyakorn, Dr. Anas Amatayakul, Thapanee Ietsrichai, Rawee Tawantharong and Emsophian Benjametha!
4. Exciting cultural shows from the Muslim World including the world’s premiere of the First Album of the Princes of Anasyid and the mesmerizing performances, Panchak Silat, Teh Tarik, Nasi Lemak cooking demonstration and a spectacular self-defense martial art show!
5. Enjoy FREE medical check-ups and fun-filled Henna painting activities and earn yourself a chance to win a kaleidoscope of fantastic prizes including free return air tickets to Turkey, Jordan and much more!
6. Benefit from a range of inspiring talks from successful businesspeople who are ready to share their secrets to success.
7. “TMTA Halal Job Fair”, Thailand’s first Halal career event ever!