11 July 2024

A Thai business delegation, comprising business leaders in the education, food, manufacturing and agricultural industries, has been impressed by the vibrancy and infrastructural projects in East Java, Indonesia.

The lack of direct flights, however, between Bangkok and Surabaya, the second-largest city in the country, is moderating investor interest in the province.

Despite a large potential market of 120 million people, tax incentives and a new port project in East Java, Thai investors face connecting flights, which means that the journey from Bangkok to Surabaya could take up to 9 hours.

In an interview with Thai PBS World, the Acting Provincial Secretary of East Java, Bobby Soemiarsono, said his office will push for direct flights between Bangkok and Surabaya, but that the flights would need approval from the central government.

Acting Provincial Secretary of East Java, Mr. Bobby Soemiarsono

“We are planning to build cooperation with airlines to persuade them to open a direct flight from Bangkok to Surabaya. We do have direct flights to some cities, like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Manila.

“We would like to develop more direct flights and, of course, the direct flight from Surabaya to Bangkok is on our priority list,” Soemiarsono said.

With 66.07 million dollars of foreign direct investment in East Java between 2010 and 2023, Thailand is ranked 22nd largest source of FDI, while Singapore was at the top with 6.576 billion dollars, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Investment.

Soemiarsono said that the amount of investment from Thailand into East Java is increasing year-on-year and the government will provide more incentives to attract more investment.

While the current Indonesia President, Mr. Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has implemented policies, which incentivise economic growth through investment and consumption, investors expect regulatory reforms by the next government to improve the ease of doing business.

The current defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, who is likely to become the next President, has promised to continue Jokowi’s economic policies.

Thailand’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Prapan Disyatat, looks forward to more cohesive economic cooperation between the two countries.

“The Thai government is relatively new, having been established only eight months ago. It would be a good start for Thailand and Indonesia to revitalise our bilateral economic cooperation. If the next president is the person whom we expect them to be, we would see more open and broader engagement,” the Ambassador said.

Left to right, Franc Han Shih and H.E. Mr. Prapan Disyatat, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Republic of Indonesia

Thai delegates also expressed their desire to invest in Indonesia due to its huge potential market and their affinity for Thai food.

The Chief Operating Officer of the Narathai Cuisine company, Nattaporn Runghajornklin, told Thai PBS World that Indonesian customers have requested the opening of their first restaurant in either Jakarta or Surabaya.

“Indonesia is a strategic location for us because of its large population, exceeding 200 million people. The culture is similar to that of Thailand and many Indonesians visit our restaurants in Thailand.

The Chief Operating Officer of the Narathai Cuisine company, Mr. Nattaporn Runghajornklin

“I have been visiting Jakarta frequently, which is a well-organised city with huge potential. If I don’t have the chance to come to Surabaya, I might consider Jakarta as the first location. In Surabaya, however, I see potential in the city’s good locations and food scene. I believe we have a chance to enter this city as well,” he said.

In addition to food, the opportunities in education attract Nisanart Dharmageisirattana, Director of The American School of Bangkok Green Valley, who proposes collaboration on curriculum reform and regular exchange programmes with East Java’s schools.

“We can help each other learn and grow by improving curricula for the nation, especially in character education. Students in this generation are bombarded by social media content, making it difficult for them to stay calm in today’s fast-paced world.

“Through collaboration, we can build friendships and learn from each other’s cultures, appreciating each other’s systems, education, arts, and languages,” she added.

Director of The American School of Bangkok Green Valley, Ms. Nisanart Dharmageisirattana

By Franc Han Shih, Thai PBS World, in Surabaya, Indonesia

The coverage for this story: