Interview by Gevorg Chichyan
The RA Ministry of Diaspora recently hosted Executive Director of the Armenian-Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry Barouyr Kouyoumdjian. Hayern Aysor’s correspondent and Barouyr Kouyoumdjian talked about not only the activities of the chamber of commerce and industry, but also about the small Armenian community of Thailand.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kouyoumdjian, what is the Armenian-Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry involved in?
Barouyr Kouyoumdjian: The Armenian-Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established by Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Thailand Arto Artinian. It is a member to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thailand and collaborates with the chambers of commerce and industry of various countries in Thailand.
We collaborate very well with everyone and have already created a field of cooperation in order to establish a network of businesses and raise awareness about the opportunities of the IT sector in Armenia.
The members of the chambers of commerce and industry think highly of Armenia and work with us with pleasure. They admire the Armenians’ skills, their progressive mindset, diligence and reliability.
Hayern Aysor: How do you establish closer ties with them?
- K.: We are always seeking ways and try to expand the field of cooperation with new programs and projects.
On April 21, the chairmen of chambers of commerce and industry of over 25 countries based in Thailand organized a banquet/meeting, which began after welcoming remarks by Arto Artinian. We discussed the opportunities of the IT sector in Armenia that interested foreign businessmen and other issues.
It was a very constructive and effective meeting during which we specified the paths for trade and joint ventures. During the meeting, we heard speeches about the state of Thai economy and discussed the various economic activities being carried out in Thailand and the Thai government’s support.
Hayern Aysor: What was the speech by the Armenian-Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry about?
- K.: This year, as a host, Mr. Artinian decided to present the field of information technologies in Armenia.
After conducing quite serious studies, we managed to organize an influential presentation that was praised by the attendees. We presented the structure of information technologies in Armenia and the number of companies that have been established over the past few years.
We talked about the support that the Government of the Republic of Armenia has provided, the legislative reforms, the economic growth that was recently recorded and the two main strategies related to this field.
We also touched upon the engagement of alumni with an education in the IT sector, their perspectives, the difference in the labor market of Armenia (i.e. high level of logic, skills in mathematics and analysis) and the search for solutions. We also discussed the eco-mechanisms of various organizations, the presence of international organizations and the challenges that we might face. We briefly presented Armenia’s economic situation, the problems facing the country, the domestic instability and foreign policy issues.
Hayern Aysor: Were there offers for cooperation after the meeting?
- K.: The high-profile meeting truly led to the desired outcome. Right after the meeting, representatives of several countries sent us e-mails and let us know that the presidents of their chambers wanted to collaborate with the relevant IT experts and companies in Armenia.
Taking into consideration the size of the market in Thailand, the activism, the commotion and advantages of investments, Arto Artinian accepted the offers. For that purpose, the Consul sent me to Armenia to meet with the representatives of various companies and organizations to discuss issues related to collaboration.
I had quite a lot of meetings in Armenia. We hope to take more active and effective steps in the future.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kouyoumdjian, do you see perspectives of cooperation in other sectors besides the IT sector in Armenia?
- K.: Of course, we can create opportunities for the growth and development of other sectors. We simply need to conduct the right studies in order to have greater opportunities of achieving success and reducing the risks. Paying attention to the education sector is goal-oriented since I see that potential among the youth in Armenia.
Due to my job, I follow the strategy on the development of various spheres in Thailand and in the countries of the region and the new programs and projects of governments. For instance, the Thai government creates cluster economies in bordering states where there is less economic growth. Those economies help raise the living standard of the population and ensure the sustainable growth of various sectors.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kouyoumdjian, now let’s talk about the Armenian community of Thailand.
- K.: The Armenian community of Thailand is relatively new, but is one of the unified communities of the Diaspora. Overall, there are nearly 150 Armenians living in Thailand. This is a little relative because we meet Armenians who came to Thailand many years ago and never maintained ties with the community.
The Armenians of Thailand are mainly involved in trade, business and jewelry making. They also work in the tourism sector and provide other services.
The Consulate of the Republic of Armenia always creates an Armenian environment for the community. The Armenians are united around the Consulate of the Republic of Armenia and especially Honorary Consul Arto Artinian, under whose leadership we carry out programs for preservation of the Armenian identity, as well as state and community programs with our compatriots. We also establish relations with local and foreign businessmen.
Generally speaking, Arto Artinian has made great contributions to the community. His diligence, patriotic activities and organizational skills inspires all of us. Whenever we organize any event or program, we always consult with the Consul and then take action.
Hayern Aysor: The Armenian community of Thailand is small in number. Doesn’t this create obstacles for community life?
- K.: Each member of the community knows how important it is to be united and is always willing to collaborate. Mutual support and understanding help us carry out our tasks.
We often hear how other communities talk about our community with admiration. They are amazed at how this small community can organize such big events and have gained a good reputation. The members are Armenians from Syria, Lebanon, the United States of America, Iraq, France, Armenia and Russia. However, that diversity doesn’t bother us.
There is still no Armenian church, school or other organization, but this doesn’t stand in our way. We traditionally celebrate all church and national holidays, and this is very exciting for our compatriots.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kouyoumdjian, how connected are the Armenians of Thailand to Armenia and Armenian national values?
- K.: First, we attach importance to activities with the parents of Thai-Armenian children. We need to work with them first. Instilling in their souls the feeling of patriotism and keeping them clung to national roots are our priorities, and helping children preserve the Armenian identity is the imperative of the time.
I must say that the programs of the RA Ministry of Diaspora, particularly the “Ari Tun” Program and the“Diaspora” Summer School Program serve as a great impetus for preservation of the Armenian identity, and we try to engage the Armenians of Thailand in those programs on a regular basis.
Last year, one of the young Armenians of Thailand, Sergio Artinian participated in one of the programs. When he returned, he was so happy and excited that he constantly talked about his impressions.
In general, we attach great importance to the establishment of the RA Ministry of Diaspora and highly appreciate its activities. The consulate is always in touch with the Ministry of Diaspora. During my visit to Armenia, I paid a visit to the Ministry of Diaspora to become familiar with the news and upcoming programs.
Hayern Aysor: During the four-day war in Artsakh, Armenians of the Diaspora rose to their feet and expressed their solidarity with Artsakh and the Armenian people. What did the Armenian community of Thailand do?
- K.: We were all very concerned about the actions that Azerbaijan unleashed against Nagorno-Karabakh. All the members of the community were following the events taking place in Artsakh and Armenia. The consulate hosted discussions to provide the people with news about the events taking place, and we quickly spread information on the Internet in order to prevent the danger of misinformation.
The important thing was that the entire Armenian Diaspora helped raise a wave of patriotism and expressed its protest against Azerbaijan’s atrocities with marches and demonstrations. Even the communities that were a little indifferent towards life in Armenia responded.
No Armenian could be indifferent. Everyone showed how patriotic they were during those days.
Hayern Aysor: Mr. Kouyoumdjian, you often visit Armenia. What major changes have you noticed?
- K.: The progress can be seen in different sectors, and that makes me very happy. The new ideas, working style and innovations of the youth of Armenia serve as tremendous potential for the reforms and advancement in Armenia.
We need to rely on and encourage them. By supporting the youth, we can have a more competitive economy and a more prosperous society.
Let us be optimistic and believe in the vision of the future, that is, the strong Armenia.