By Ahmad Cholis Hamzah*
Public in Indonesia in general already know the relation between Indonesia and Malaysia in term of similar Malay culture, religion and language as well as cuisine. However, not everybody in Indonesia is aware of close relation between Indonesia and Kingdom of Thailand (of course people know very well Thai cuisine and fruits). It would better if people within ASEAN countries know the linkage of members country in the Association which make them uniting together in ASEAN.
The Ambassador of Kingdom of Thailand to Indonesia H.E Mr. Thanatip Upatising who came to Surabaya – the second largest city in Indonesia on March last year (2012) and gave lecture at Faculty of Economics Airlangga University opened the mindset of students about the closeness of Kingdom of Thailand and Indonesia. He said that both Indonesia and Thailand are founding members of ASEAN; and they do not share any common land border – or they are not immediate neighbours. However, both of them are actually have important historic linkages. Both Indonesia and Thailand already had relation during Sumatra based Srivijaya Kingdom (3rd-15th century) as well as the 8th century of Buddhist Sailendra Kingdom when the Borobudur was constructed. Borobudur that is located in Central Java is the world’s largest Buddhist place of worship, and is still the most popular destination of many Thai visitors to Indonesia. As far as I remember, my Thai colleagues at Nippon Maru (youth exchange program between ASEAN and Japan) in 1982 told me that up to know students of high schools in Thailand still learn the history of Srivijaya Kingdom in Sumatra and Majapahit Kingdom in East Java.
H.E Ambassador Upatising also said that the first Thai who had seen this magnificent cultural heritage in Indonesia was King Chulalongkorn the Great (King Rama V) of Thailand during his visit to Java almost one and a half century ago. (H.E Ambassador Upatising graduated from a respective University that uses the name of King Chulalongkorn - the University of Chulalongkorn). H.E Ambassador even disclosed an important history that former Prime Minister of Thailand, General Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, can trace his ancestry back 400 years to Central Java. And almost nobody knows in Indonesia that the grandson of Kiai Haji Ahmad Dahlan, founder of Muhammadiyah (the second largest Muslim organization in Indonesia), is now living in Thailand as an important Thai Muslim scientist and expert of Halal science. There is still “Masjid Indonesia” in Bangkok, built by Thais of Indonesian ancestry.
Therefore, H.E Ambassador said that Thai and Indonesians people are not only neighbours; but “we are relatives”.
Alumni of University of London and Airlangga University Surabaya and a lecturer at PERBANAS (Banking College) Surabaya.
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