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The four-day festival on Phuket should produce new halal fans

Phuket Halal on the Beach: April 30-May 3

Thursday, April 23, 2009
PRIME Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva could not make a proposed visit to Phuket next Friday to open the four-day Halal Meeting and Exhibition on the Beach, which represents a major boost for regional Muslim business, science and food.

Even without the presence of the PM, the ambitious program of events represents a great leap forward for cultural tourism on Phuket.

Never before will the island have seen such a broad display of Muslim traditions, technology and trade, with representatives from Indonesia and Malaysia playing major roles and other interested parties coming from Australia, Singapore and Europe.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to flock to the Phuket Halal Expo over four days at the Saphan Hin public park in Phuket City.

At the same time, a large convention will be taking place at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa on Karon beach.

The PM is due to provide a key speech at the opening ceremony on Friday, May 1, but the public event will already have begun. It runs from Thursday, April 30.

More than 50 mosques dot Phuket, and Muslims make up about a quarter of the island's population. They mix contentedly with the Buddhist majority and the huge assortment of visitors and other residents.

Local Muslim connections remain strong with the troubled provinces of Thailand's south, and with two important Muslim neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Phuket, with its strong Muslim influence and international connections, is seen as having the potential to be a gateway for ideas and development of halal science, trade and business.

If the tentative title of the PM's speech is anything to go by, ''The opportunity presented by halal trade and business for Asean in a global economic crisis,'' it's likely that many non-Muslim ears will also be tuning in.

Before proceedings begin, there are a few acronyms to absorb. The first is Whasib 2009, which stands for World of Halal Science Industry and Business conference.

Much of this conference will take place at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia, opening on Friday May 1, running for three days, and with plenty of interaction with the public showings at Saphan Hin.

Dr Veerasak Kowsurat, chairman of the Tourist Authority of Thailand, is due to deliver an important speech on targeting Phuket and the Andaman as a halal hub.

Andaman small business enterprises will also convene to learn more about halal and potential halal hospital hubs.

The other acronym is IMT-GT, which stands for the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.

The input, impact and inspiration from the three nations of the IMT-GT should make Saphan Hin a great place to be for the Phuket Halal Expo over four days from April 30.

The organisers boldly list under the heading ''Participants'' 15 representatives of foreign embassies and consulates, 30 overseas participants, 130 representatives of governmental and private organisations, 25 organising committees, 300 exhibitors and traders, 200 SME entrepreneurs, and 100,000 attendees at the Phuket Halal Expo.

You can try to count them all from April 30-May 3.

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