Malaysia's new ambassador to Thailand aims to strengthen bilateral trade, investments

BANGKOK: The newly-appointed Malaysian Ambassador to Thailand, Datuk Jojie Samuel (pix), has set his sights on taking the already close bilateral trade and investment relations between both countries to a new high.

The seasoned diplomat said enhancing the trade and investment relations would be a key target, with Malaysia and Thailand having celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties last year.

Jojie said one of the best ways to increase trade between the two countries is through enhancing the land, air and sea linkages, especially at the border areas.

"This is because 60% of total trade between Malaysia and Thailand is through the border," he told Bernama in an interview here recently.

Last year, bilateral trade between the two neighbours rose to RM98.6 billion, in favour of Malaysia.

In 2017, Malaysia exported RM50.53 billion worth of products to Thailand, while imports stood at RM48.16 billion.

Prior to his current posting, Jojie was Director General of the Asean-Malaysia National Secretariat from 2016.

He said increasing border linkages between Malaysia and Thailand will help open up more areas for economic activities, which goes a long way towards strengthening trade ties and relationship between the citizens.

He said the proposal to extend the Bukit Kayu Hitam Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex operational hours to 24-hours next year would boost border trade.

There was also a proposal to set up an Economic Zone within the Bukit Kayu Hitam vicinity to cater to an expected avalanche of economic activities in the border areas, he added.

Jojie said officials from both countries have also been engaging in preliminary talks on a proposal to establish a land bridge between the Port of Songkla in Southern Thailand and Penang Port.

"These linkages will definitely promote more border trade. There is also an ongoing negotiation regarding the construction of a bridge to connect Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan to Takbai in Narathiwat and an expansion of the Sungai Golok Bridge," he added.

He was also hopeful that improving economic conditions in the border areas would assist in establishing peace in Southern Thailand and discourage residents there from taking part in any "undesirable" activities which may lead to further instability within it.

The ambassador also aims to boost the number of Thai tourists to Malaysia through better border linkages.

From January-October last year, he said, 1.53 million Thais chose Malaysia as their holiday destination, and the embassy expects the number to increase to 1.91 million this year.

"We need to do more promotions here," he said, adding, Thais should consider Malaysia as their holiday destination following the current favourable currency exchange rate.

Jojie also hoped for more tourist attractions, such as water and theme parks, to be developed in the border areas.

He will also be enlisting the help of Kelab Malaysia Thailand and the Malaysian-Thai Chamber of Commerce to promote more trade, investment and tourism between both countries. — Bernama