June 12, 2013 00:00 By Khanittha Thepphajorn
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is scheduled to visit Turkey and Poland early next month to strengthen bilateral ties after eight years of little political contact.
She will also lead a delegation of businesspeople during her trip to explore trade and investment opportunities, Rattakit Manatat, the Thai ambassador to Ankara, said yesterday.
The trip, which is likely to take place from July 3-7, will see Yingluck meeting with the mayor of Ankara and the governor of Istanbul.
The last top-level official visit between the two countries was in 2005 when her older brother Thaksin went to Turkey as prime minister.
According to Turkey’s official trade figures, its exports to Thailand were worth US$243.8 million (Bt7.54 billion) last year. They were mainly machinery, ships and water-borne structures. Thailand’s exports to Turkey, worth $1.08 billion, were mostly cars, auto parts, granular plastic and natural rubber.
One incentive for greater investment in Turkey is its respectable level of transparency. It moved up the ranks to 61st out of 102 countries surveyed in 2011.
Turkey, like Thailand, is also a popular tourist destination. The ancient city of Izmir dates back five millennia. Izmir is an old port city in Anatolia or Asia Minor and the country’s second-biggest port. Izmir is also competing with Thailand to host the World Expo in 2020.
Another important tourist spot is Antalya on the Mediterranean coast. Last year, 12 million people visited the city with its beautiful sea. Some Thais have already begun working there, particularly as providers of Thai massage. The lack of the Thai government’s support has made obtaining work visas a difficult task, however.
This has led to Thais being exploited by local employers and Indonesia making inroads.
Restaurants are another area where some Thais have competed. Kaison Duangchan, 41, from the northeastern province of Nong Khai, has opened a sushi bar called Kaison Sushi in Antalya with a Bt8.1 million investment with his partners. Kaison said the biggest hurdle in Turkey was overcoming local people’s preferences. Foreign food must be adapted to the locals’ taste buds in order for a business to survive.
“Although Turkish law is wide open for investment, I must admit facing the problem of local people not wanting to eat things that are not local. But there’s hope even amid adversity, as Turkey is becoming more popular with Thai tourists,” he said.