Ambassador: Direct Flights to Open Between Yogyakarta and Myanmar


FEBRUARY 11, 2015

Yogyakarta. Direct flights between Yogyakarta and Myanmar will start this year with the aim of boosting the number of tourists from Myanmar visiting the city and other places in Indonesia, Indonesia's ambassador to Myanmar has said.

Only dozens of tourists from Myanmar visit Indonesia each year despite visa-free travel between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.

"We are optimistic about it although we will have to compete with Singaporean and Malaysian airlines," the Indonesian ambassador to Myanmar, Ito Sumardi, said on Tuesday. The Indonesian government has discussed the plan with the country's flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia.

For majority-Buddhist Myanmar, Indonesia has a lot to offer. But the abundance of historical Buddhist temples here — in particular the Borobudur, located not far from Yogyakarta — goes undercapitalized so far.

"For the people of Myanmar, the Borobudur is not only an artifact but also a holy site, just like Medina is to Muslims," Ito explained. "We have discussed plans to start a religious tour of temples in Indonesia. There are many tourists from Myanmar who are interested in visiting Buddhist temples in Indonesia, especially the Borobudur, but access is still limited."

To boost awareness of Indonesia's cultural treasures, the embassy of Indonesia in Myanmar plans on hosting a Yogyakarta and Surakarta batik exhibition in March 2015.

“We should not waste chances to improve our economy, especially as we face the 2015 ASEAN Economic Community,” said the head of the Yogyakarta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, H.R. Gonan Djuliastono.

A possible challenge in attracting more Buddhist tourists to visit Muslim-majority Indonesia could be the ongoing religious tensions in Myanmar. The Myanmar government has faced severe criticism in recent years over the treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority in the country, many of whom have fled, including to Indonesia.