Bangkok: Thailand's military declared martial law early on Tuesday morning, but that didn't stop a delegation of Omani businessmen from flying to Bangkok to look for trade opportunities.
The men, all members of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had been invited by the Royal Thai Embassy in Oman to attend Thaifex, the largest food products trade fair and exhibition in Asia, and to meet with board members of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Though they were expecting to find military checkpoints and a tense atmosphere when they arrived on Wednesday morning, they soon discovered that business was carrying on as usual in the Thai capital.
"Most of them have never been to Thailand so this is quite an opportunity for them to see what Thailand can offer but on top of that because the martial law has just been enforced we would like them to see with their own eyes how the situation looks in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok," said Dr Pornchai Danvivathana, Ambassador of Thailand to Oman, who was hosting the delegation.
Danvivathana said he hadn't seen any military checkpoints and that the purpose of martial law was to ensure safety and security for people. Even if protesters from the opposition groups, the pro-government "Red Shirts" who support Yinluck Shinawatra, the prime minister who was dismissed from office on May 7, and the "Yellow Shirts," who oppose the government, take to the streets, they have to abide by the laws.
"It's like there's no martial law at all because everyone still leads their normal lives. This is of course not a coup, by any means, not even a half coup. The constitution is still in place and the government is still in administration. People can rest assured that tourists are not targeted," he told Times of Oman.
Danvivathana felt confident bringing the Omani delegation, as until now no countries have issued travel advisories prohibiting their citizens from visiting Thailand. He said martial law maintains stability, so the delegates would be able to proceed with their itinerary as planned.
The trip would be beneficial to them, he said, as they are all Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) owners in Oman, and together Thai and Omani SMEs could work together. He said by bringing the Omanis to Thailand, they could immediately establish trading partners and learn how to do business in the Southeast Asian country.
While touring Thaifex with the ambassador, the four Omanis made a number of new contacts.
Abdulmalek Al Bahri, owner of Abu Marwan Al Bahri Trade, said the trip to Bangkok would help him establish a new food distribution company.
"It's important to come so I can open a new business for Oman. Some items aren't available in Oman so I've made contacts with some businesspeople in Thailand who can provide them. There are very good items," Al Bahri said.
He met with several companies on Wednesday with whom he plans on pursuing business deals with. He said there are a number of halal products available in Thailand and other countries that had businesses participating in Thaifex that can't yet be found on the shelves in Omani supermarkets, so he'd like to start importing them.
The delegation also met with Abdullah Al Maimani, Oman's ambassador to Thailand, and Juma Al Afifi, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Bangkok.
Salim Al Ramadani said he felt warmly welcomed in Bangkok and was happy to have the opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time, and have the chance to expand his business. He was also happy to meet Omani officials.
"We are thankful to the Thai Embassy that we can be here. We feel like we are at home here," Al Ramadani said.
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