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.
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.
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.
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.
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.