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Myanmar riches take package tour to Thailand - 31 December 2006 Back to stories index

Tun Aung Thor Wynn has just came back from his fourth visits to Europe, and now he was thinking of taking a new year package tour to Thailand with his wife. Yesterday he closed his sales book for the year 2006 and it was another year of success. His alcoholic beverage drinks were very popular in Myanmar especially in the mountainous provinces of Shan, Kachin, Chin, Sagaing, Karen and Mon states.

His company produces 3 types of liquors all for domestic sales. His company is currently number two in terms of sales volume in the whole Burma market. The bottles, caps, and label prints are all made in Bangkok so as to have nice and attractive looks. This is also to compete with foreign imported drinks which are more expensive. He owns three houses, two of which have swimming pools, all in good locations just outside down town Yangon. He rented out one of these to a foreign business for 2000 US$ per month.

He turn a newspaper advertisement where he found an ads about a 4 night package to Bangkok and Pattaya beach the previous day. The price was good, but it was package so together with other tourists. Never mind, he has already travelled to many countries himself and this time he just wanted to relax. Besides, it would be together with his wife. He remembered his friend Aung Thu Soe. Maybe he wanted to go too. He picked up the phone and called Aung's mobile phone. In Myanmar, mobile phones are expensive - probably the most expensive in the world. To own a mobile phone you must pay 1500 US$ up front which is non-refundable, and the price is increasing.

Aung Thu Soe was his school friend from Mandalay University. After the graduation Aung joined government services and he went to study overseas before he begun working for his parents' trading business. After resigning as a high ranking officer Aung started doing private business with a friend. At first they set up a furniture manufacturing factory to produce teak and other hardwood furniture, flooring, and dimension stocks. But they found out that they were paying too much for the raw materials. What happened was like a dream or 'impossible comes true'. Their furniture made of raw materials sourced within the country was not able to compete with the furniture made by companies in Vietnam and Thailand who imported timber from Myanmar. They made an inquiry. They understood that the machinery used in their factory were similar to or the same as those in Vietnam and Thailand - they all imported equipment from Europe and Taiwan. They even met with these people at the wood working machinery shows. The quality were almost the same or there were just little differences as they also had samples from the competitors. So why their export prices were more expensive than their competitors. The inquiry led them to the fact that the money they paid to buy teak in Yangon was higher than what their competitors paid for Myanmar teak at arrival their ports!

Then they tried to sell their furniture through border trade with Thailand. But then Thailand banned imports of finished furniture in quantity. When they talked about the matters with their Thai associates they were told that Thailand wanted to buy timber logs from Myanmar so that they could have employment opportunities for their people. They would also enjoy having expertise and experience with all processes of wood working and delivery, as well as by-products. Wood chips, cutting losses are being made to produce particle boards.

They sold their wood working factory and tried to export agricultural and food products to Thailand. That was also failed because they could not afford to meet the safety, health and environmental regulations. Even though they were sure their products were 100% organic and lacking any health hazards they just simply could not pay for the testing, licencing and so on which must all be done in Thailand or in a western country.

So finally Aung changed his view of business. He imported second hand computers and related parts, cosmetics, and energy drinks from Thailand to sell in Myanmar. This change hit the bull point. Within five years he was able to pay back all his depts, and now he was living in a large house in a large garden with an electric generator. He now owns three cars; one for himself and other two for his wife and son who is studying in a European University. He could not take time to think whether the second hand computers he imported would damage the people' health and environment after just a year or so in use. There was no proper regulatons in Myanmar and no need to think.

Aung was at a Golf course outside the town entertaining his Thai suppliers, and was not able to pick the call. Later in the evening Aung called back Tun and asked, "Hey Tun did you call me this afternoon. I was with my Thai friends playing golf."
"Yes I know you were busy," Tun replied and enquiried, "Friend, we have not travelled abroad for a tour together for long time. What about your new year plan?"
Aung said, "I have nothing at the moment. Where you want to go? I am free from 29 Dec to 4 Jan. My wife also can join us."
"Good. Look, I have this ads. They advertise for a four nights package to Bangkok and Pattaya from 30 Dec to 3 Jan. I already told my wife and we are going. We want you to go together," Tun demanded.
"Ok. No problem. Let's go. I have not been to Pattaya for five years already. It is a good idea to relax and do nothing," Aung agreed and continued, "I also have little business in Bangkok."

On 30 Dec 2006 a chartered flight from Yangon's Mingalardon airport arrived at Bangkok's newly built airport at 2:10 p.m. There were three tour groups in the plane. The group in which Aung and Tun were in were met by their Thai tour company representatives at the arrival hall. They were sent to check in at a downtown four star hotel. The Thai tour guide announced that there would be a welcome dinner on a Chaophara river boat at 6:30 p.m. So they must be ready at the lobby by 5:30 p.m.

Aung and his wife came to meet Tun and his wife at their room. They were not joining the dinner cruise. Instead they would go out to have a dinner with their Thai business partners. Tun's business partner has already arranged a dinner at a riverside hotel for them. They would also introduce each others to their respective Thai associates.

They had sea food, fruit juices and beer for the dinner overlooking the Chaophara river. Food was delicious. The Thai partners also talked to each others after the introduction. One is sourcing reconditioned computers and parts, cosmetics and energy drinks for Aung, the other was representative of Tun for purchasing bottles, label prints and caps.

"By the way, Khun Somchai, can you help me with a matter?" Aung asked his Thai friend.
"What is the matter. I will do whatever I can for you," Somchai wanted to know.
"I need to pay the University fee for my son who is in Europe. The transfer is in US$ and it is international. Last time I was told by the bank in Bangkok that I could not send the money using my name because Myanmar people might not be allowed to send or receive international bank wire. I did not understand, but anyway another Thai friend helped me at that time and I was able to send the first year payment for my son. Now I have to send another payment and if possible I want you to send the money for me. I have all the document. I hope you can help me with this," explained Aung.
"Well, it is sad that you could not send money yourselves. I don't know about that. Don't worry. That is easy for me and I will help you. Give me all document and the money. After that I will send you the bank wire papers by post," Somchai assured.

They finished their dinner at 8 p.m. and Thai friends sent their Myanmar (Burmese) friends back to hotel.

On the 31th December the large tour bus with 28 Myanmar tourist travelled to Pattaya where they had a great time visiting shopping centers, shows, and the beach. In the evening Aung and Tun couples walked out to eat at a seafood restaurant at a department store. In the middle of their dinner the waitress serving their table talked to them in Myanmar language. They were all surprised to see a Myanmar lady working there. Since she was working she could not have much time to talk. But everytime she came to their table for serving she made short conversation.

"Where do you live in Myanmar," Tun asked the girl.
"I lived in Kyaing Tong in Shan state," she answered and then went to serve another table.
When she came back Aung's wife asked the girl," What are your parents doing in Kyaing Tong?"
"My father died 2 years ago after many years of heavy drinking. My mother now lives with my aunts and uncles. We do not have money to send my two younger brothers to school," replied the girl before going back to the kitchen.

Meanwhile a lot of people both Thai and foreigners were gathering in front of the department store to celebrate the newyear count down. Western music and dance show were being staged just one floor below the sea food restaurant. They finished their dinner quietly.

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