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Surinporn Saandluam, who tried to stop tourists being ripped off

Best of Phuket 2011: Person of the Year

Sunday, January 1, 2012
The Original and Still the Best of Phuket Awards

PHUKET: As Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi has shown and as women around the world continue to show every day, the power of ideals bears no relationship to the size of their advocates.

Earlier this year, when a group of Phuket taxi drivers tried to mislead a couple of tourists at the bus terminal in Phuket City, Surinporn Saandluam, aged 27, intervened.

A slip of a woman, she told the taxi drivers they were doing the wrong thing.

For her courage in standing up to the taxi drivers, she was struck on the face and abused. Although others advised her to forget the incident, Khun Surinporn went ahead and complained at Phuket City Police Station.

The case is being pursued, despite efforts by the drivers to offer compensation, despite the taunts and the firecrackers thrown in her direction.

Khun Surinporn is the Phuketwan/Phuket Post Best of Phuket Person of the Year 2011.

''Of course I was scared,'' Khun Surinporn said this week. ''I am still scared. But this is my country as well.''

It was her first week working at the tour company near the Phuket City bus station. Her employers have been fully supportive, and Khun Surinporn now works out of another branch, elsewhere in Phuket City, just in case.

It will take more people speaking out about tourist rip-offs and corruption to change Phuket. But through her actions, Khun Surinporn showed the kind of understanding of right and wrong that the average person on the streets of Phuket needs to show.

Knowing what was happening and that the tourists were about to be ripped off, Khun Surinporn spoke up.

''Even if we are Thai we feel uncomfortable about this kind of thing,'' she said. ''Imagine how the tourists feel once they learn they have been deceived. It's very unfair.''

Coming from Chiang Mai three years ago to continue her studies here, Khun Surinporn was surprised by what she quickly learned about Phuket ''culture.''

''I was ignorant about the mafia groups and what happens on Phuket,'' she said. ''We don't have these kinds of things in Chiang Mai.

''I just wanted to give the tourists the advice they asked for, and for that I was assaulted.''

Khun Surinporn says she will pursue the court case, regardless. ''Why do they think money can buy everything?'' she says.

Among other tricks, the taxi drivers are in the habit of buying tickets at the bus station and selling them on to tourists at twice the nominal value or more, said Khun Surinporn's boss, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Best of Phuket Person of the Year 2010

Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit, the man behind Phuket's ''100% helmet'' campaign, did more than just put helmets on heads for the first time. The colonel, a former Superintendent at Phuket City Police Station, became the man with the plan. He challenged conventional thinking, and won.

Best of Phuket Person of the Year 2009

Dr Kongkiat Kespechara, at the time Director of the Bangkok Hospital Phuket, is continuing to give Phuket a second key industry alongside tourism, as well as playing a vital role in the development of medical care throughout Thailand. Phuket's 25 million baht Software Park, which opened in Chao Fa Road West in 2009, is a beginning to his idea of IT-related industries on Phuket.

Best of Phuket Person of the Year 2008

Wing Commander Wicha Nurnlop was in charge of Phuket International Airport during the three-day occupation by the People's Alliance for Democracy and later announced the plan for a 6.4 billion baht airport expansion. That was quite some year.

Best of Phuket Person of the Year 2007

Promchote Traivate, then local coordinator of the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, mixed good ideas and community values. He introduced a network of home-stay houses, and an agenda to put an increasing number of international sporting events on Phuket's calendar, as well as guiding community fitness programs.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Well deserved kudos! If only some leading political figures here had the same moral standing.

Posted by Mike on January 1, 2012 21:47


Not only is she "a slip of a woman", she's also a very pretty one too!

Posted by sky on January 1, 2012 22:10


Great choice for person of the year. She is a brave woman. We need more people standing up in Phuket. Hopefully she will start a trend.

Posted by Billy on January 1, 2012 22:58


Brilliant choice and well deserved, kudos to you Khun Surinporn.

Posted by Rod on January 2, 2012 08:54


I used her story among 4 other 'local' stories in a listening test with my students and had them give advice. Not one of the 14 year old students had heard the story until I told them, most were as shocked as Khun Surinporn. Do the local Phuketians really know what's going on on their island?

Posted by A Jarn on January 2, 2012 09:24

Editor Comment:

There's certainly a gulf between what Phuket residents are told and what they see as the issues. Sad, really.


Great choice..well deserved, if only the Thai media can read this and use it to make local Thais aware..

Posted by johndev on January 2, 2012 09:24


Khun Surinporn, you are my hero.

Posted by helen on January 2, 2012 09:37


Khun Surinporn says she will pursue the court case, regardless. ''Why do they think money can buy everything?'' she says.

Well Khun Surinporn, authorities in Phuket respond to money, and money only, which is not conducive to fair treatment of foreigners.

Posted by Media Watcher on January 2, 2012 09:52

Editor Comment:

I've changed your Ms to Khun, knowing that you prefer non-discriminatory terms, Media Watcher.


Person of the Year 2012 ......already?

Posted by Mr Man on January 2, 2012 10:36

Editor Comment:

Good point. You're the first to notice.


Good choice.

Posted by Eric on January 2, 2012 11:20


Could not have been a better deserving person receive this award. To underscore her courage, even her own boss lacks the courage to be identified while she's out in the open fighting for justice.

I wish her story would be picked up by the Thai media and others would follow in her footsteps. Who knows, it might start a anti-corruption revolution.

It would be great if this story is being followed up. I'd certainly like to be in the court to show my support to her and I'm sure plenty of others would too. Please let us know if and when this happens.

Posted by Steve C. on January 2, 2012 11:59


Excellent choice! Hope Phuketwan will follow the progress of this and see what transpires in court.

Would like to know Gov Tri's take on this. Has he been made aware and if so, what's his position?

We all know that are those out there that will stand up and won't be intimidated. Why not make this girl the next Gov? Someone who will make a stand and say NO.

Well done young lady. Happy New Year!

Posted by Graham on January 2, 2012 14:30


Excellent choice - can just hope that these problems will be visible to more Thai people, and that that they will understand how much cheating tourists will cost everybody in the long term.

Posted by Sherlock on January 2, 2012 16:27



Posted by Lena on January 2, 2012 16:36


will she be standing for governor or mayor of phuket? Vote 1 Khun Courage.

Posted by Anonymous on January 3, 2012 05:28


I bow to you indeed! x

Posted by S on January 3, 2012 09:50


I don't know if you can afford it PW, but, why don't you hire a billboard at Central junction (billboard alley) to highlight this woman and her brave actions.. This idea will most certainly raise awareness amongst the locals and perhaps even encourage one or two to speak out. What do you think?

Posted by S on January 3, 2012 09:55

Editor Comment:

Billboards are a blot on the Phuket landscape. We would like to see them all pulled down, large and small. But if they are to stay up for now, then it would be great to see someone with money to spare highlighting the stand of Khun Courageous. An anti-corruption campaign is a much more sensible use of the billboards. If someone did it, they too would be courageous. There are plenty of rich people on Phuket. If only just one of them was as brave as this young woman . . . .


What a lady she is very brave I salute you. There are also many other very brave people in Phuket and Thailand. Cheers!

Posted by capt Canada on January 20, 2012 12:35

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