H.E. Mr. Ahmad and Madame Anita Rusdi are a genuine hospitable couple. I have lost count how many times I have visited their beautiful residence at the Embassy of Indonesia, to learn more about “Wonderful Indonesia”. Numerous cultural events and open house invitations were organised to give many foreign guests a better glimpse on the rich tradition of Indonesia. The Embassy occupies a huge piece of land located at the busy and buzzing Petchaburi Road. I was thrilled to have the chance to sit down with the admirable couple for an interview. Ambassador Rusdi is a career diplomat with many years of diplomatic experience.
The pinnacle of any career diplomat is reaching the post of Ambassadorship. If there is a further step it is probably when the Ambassador is asked to continue serving the country beyond their retirement age. This is the case with H.E. Mr. Ahmad Rusdi. I have been very fortunate to have made the acquaintance of His Excellency and his wife Anita over the past three years, and many who know Ambassador Rusdi will agree that with his high intellect and formidable charisma he represents his country impeccably.
Ambassador Rusdi came to Thailand from Indonesia in 2016. He has extensive prior experience in the Presidential Palace. During his 20 years term working in the Presidential Office, he has held diverse roles such as the Chief of State Protocol, Chief of the Presidential Household, Presidential Secretariat, of the State Secretariat. In 2015, he received the MURI Award as Protocol Officer for service to six Presidents of the Republic of Indonesia (President Soeharto, President B.J. Habibie, President Abdurrahman, President Megawati Soekarnoputri, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and President Joko Widodo). His Excellency served as Ambassador for three years in Greece, Athena between 2009-2011. Other overseas postings include London, Islamabad and Prague. In 2015, the Ambassador published a Handbook of “Protocol, Manner and Etiquette”. Prior to moving to Thailand, His Excellency served as guest lecturer to various Governmental/National Institutions and universities for the subject of “International Protocol Norms, Etiquette and Manner.”
Ambassador Rusdi was born in Pekalongan, Central Java in Indonesia. “I had aspired to be a diplomat since my university years where I studied International Relations and Socio-Political Science at Padjajaran University in Bandung. In a blink of an eye, I was a Public Servant Officer for over 36 years.” His diplomatic career started from Foreign Service Course in 1983 and then in 1985 when he served as Head of Europe and America Division in the Directorate of Foreign Information based in Jakarta.
Serving the community
The Ambassador has been an active member of the Indonesian Scout Association from elementary school in 1968 until present. He has continuously been actively involved in Scout activities by participating in several events at National and Regional level. Since 2018, Ambassador Rusdi has been the Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Regional Scout Committee and will serve until 2021. He is also ex officio as a Member of The World Scout Bureau. “I find that Scout activities provide an excellent opportunity for me to meet with the local and international communities, wherever I go,” said the Ambassador. Scouting activities took him to many places to meet with leaders from all over the world.
Indonesia officially the Republic of Indonesia is a country in SE Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world’s largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres (735,358 square miles), the 14th largest by land area and 7th in the combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world’s 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world’s most populous island, is home to more than half of the country’s population. The Ambassador explained that the national language of Bahasa, Indonesia and the national motto of ‘Unity in Diversity’ helps to bind those separated islands and its multi diverse inhabitants with more than 500 ethnic groups together in the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
I asked Ambassador how many Indonesians are in Thailand? “There are approximately 3,050 Indonesian nationals now residing in Thailand. They consist of around 1,000 students, employees and mixed marriage couples.” Ambassador Rusdi explained, “Currently, Thailand is getting more and more attractive as a destination for Indonesian tourists. It is supported by developed connectivity, budget flights, a variety of attractive tourist destinations – includes shopping, culinary and health and spa tourism, and other thematic tourism destinations which promote Halal tourism.”
Ambassador Rusdi and the Embassy have worked tirelessly to increase the education cooperation between Indonesia and Thailand, with the signing of student exchanges programmes, summer camps, agreements about education cooperation on the exchange of teachers and instructors between local Thai and Indonesian universities.
During the ASEAN summit in June, the newly re-elected President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo came to Bangkok. Ambassador Rusdi and the Embassy team were naturally very busy preparing for the presidential visit. Another visit is due later in the year.
I asked His Excellency on his goals in Thailand, “My duty as the Indonesian Ambassador in the Kingdom of Thailand is to represent the Government and the people of Indonesia in protecting the Indonesian national interest and to promote relations and cooperation that benefit both countries in many aspects. Based on this duty and focusing the Development Programme under President Joko Widodo’s agenda, the goal of the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok is to increase trade volume between Indonesia and Thailand while also focusing on reducing the trade deficit for Indonesia.
The positive development in these recent years shows that investment between the two countries is increasing rapidly, whilst the number of Thai tourists to Indonesia is also increasing, although the number is still far less compared to the number of Indonesian tourists in Thailand. In addition, people-to-people contact between the two nations has also been flourishing through cooperation in education and socio-cultural activities.”
Ambassador Rusdi have visited many provinces across Thailand, particularly those with high potential in terms of economy, tourism and education. His Excellency found it difficult to pinpoint his particular favourite destination as there are many provinces that are very interesting and important. With continuous visiting foreign delegations and ministerial duties, Ambassador Rusdi has a fully-packed and busy schedule daily. He joked that, “The only time I feel relaxed and happy is on the golf course… with few birdies.” I would like to add that having seen the Ambassador at a number of diplomatic gatherings; I have seen that he is a good singer, an accomplished dancer and a popular member of the diplomatic community.
The graceful Madame Anita Rusdi
As a grandmother of six grandchildren, family is very important to Madame Anita. Together with the Ambassador, they have three children, two son-in-laws and one daughter-in-law. Madame Anita is always meticulously dressed in elegant Indonesian batik, complemented with fetching batik-made or embroidered handbags brand “Lungsin” designed by her own daughter, Aulia R. Rusdi.
Madame Anita received a Bachelors Degree of Academic and Foreign Language in Jakarta. When Ambassador Rusdi served at the Presidential Palace, she played an important supporting role as Chairperson to the Housewives Association, Chief of State Protocol, Directorate General of Protocol and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta. As the First Lady of the Indonesian Embassy in Greece, she was the Chairperson of the Women Association at the Embassy. Since 2016, she is the Chairperson of the Women Association at the Embassy of Indonesia in Bangkok. She utilises her vast experience to share with the younger generation and motivate them.
I asked the question on volunteering for the local community, Madame Anita gently replied, “I found it very fulfilling for the past year to serve as the Chairperson of Diplomatic Participants Committee Thailand Red Cross Society in Bangkok. It helped me to understand how the charity fund is organized and allocation to the needy.”
Madame Anita explains that her success is credited to having a strong team of Indonesians supporting her. She feels tremendously grateful with the friendships that she has built up here, and employs the local network in promoting exquisite Indonesian products in Thailand. One good example is “Lungsin” designer handbags established in 2012 at good quality and affordable prices. The brand embraces the Indonesian traditional textile with a modern twist, resulting in fresh and contemporary makeover. With the traditional pattern colour from different regions, such as West and Central Java, West and Central Sumatra, or Nusa Tenggara, it poses significant challenge to produce modern design simultaneously celebrating the local heritage.
Hong Kong Ladies’ Group Official visit to West Sumatra
For those readers who are personally acquainted with this remarkable couple will agree the generosity that they share with the Thai and foreign community in Thailand. I was lucky to have the opportunity to embark on an educational trip to Bali and Yogyakarta together with Madame Anita Rusdi, and other ladies from the International Women’s Club of Thailand in 2018. As a sequel to last year’s memorable trip, Madame Anita is leading the Hong Kong Ladies’ Group to visit West Sumatra in early August 2019. Many members, Indonesian and international lady friends from the HKLG joined the official delegation.