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Phuket's Person of the Year 2007

Phuket's Person of the Year for 2007

Monday, January 21, 2008
THE Phuketwan Man of the Year for 2007 is not a powerful politician or a successful businessman.

He is not a rock star or a social celebrity. He is not a charity organiser or a billionaire, although our man is generous and perhaps even rich in his own way.

He's Promchote Traivate, the local coordinator of the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, and his wealth comes in good ideas and community values.

The international sports complex on 200-plus rai at the north of the island and the radical changes transforming the diving industry are just two of the projects that he is steering.

There's also a proposal for an island university for hospitality, a network of 100 home-stay houses, and an agenda to put an increasing number of international sporting events on Phuket's calendar.

Dozens of other projects, large and small, grow from thoughts that pop into his head as he criss-crosses the island and the region, talking to people at all levels.

He is Phuket's Mr Ideas, working at bringing communities and investment together, lifting Thai cultural profiles and promoting environmental values.

The complete sporting calendar is one concept that seems to be creeping closer and closer.

International windsurfing is this year's latest addition, joining women's beach volleyball the Laguna marathon, the annual triathlon and the King's Cup regatta.

Khun Promchote's plans for a brighter future for Phuket do not begin and end with sport.

He dreams of international cultural exchanges and homestays at sea, of obsolete aircraft being sunk at sea to form an appealing and novel artifical reef.

Most of all, he brings people together in projects of mutual interest and benefit.

Headquarters for Khun Promchote is at Surakul Stadium in Phuket City, which also serves as the home he shares with scores of visiting athletes who come to the island to train.

When we first met last year, he was organising development of a traditional massage business in a Muslim village and playing the flute to attract attention in small communities along the coast.

The sound of the flute would draw an audience. He would bring people together so they could learn how to keep the environment neat and tidy.

In this way, the villagers were taking the first step towards attracting tourists and turning their traditional lifestyle into an asset.

Later in the year, he began having sea gypsies trained in scuba to improve their traditional diving skills and produce alternative work as diving instructors.

This time he has just returned from a trip to Hua Hin and preparations for a training exercise for about 70 student air force nurses in a local village.

The nurses will each be adopted by a couple and, as he says in one of his favorite phrases, ''learn by doing.''

Local culture, education, health and social development . . . all will be absorbed, equipping the nurses with a broader perspective on life and its meaning.

Khun Promchote is 48 and a bachelor who works seven days a week. This is not a problem. He loves his work.

He has a large network of volunteers who receive only a certificate and are pleased to have that much. There are unpaid yet willing ''consultants'' too, across many businesses and professions.

Khun Promchote leads by example. He tells this story: ''A man came to me and said, 'I see you work very hard for Phuket, although you come from Bangkok.

''I was born on Phuket and I will die here. I will help you.'''

While much of the backing for many of these ideas comes from the Minister of Tourism and Sport, Dr Suvit Yomani, with his solid environmental credentials, it is Khun Promchote on the island who puts words into action.

Three years into his assignment on Phuket, the humble man bent on realising dreams big and small has an army of supporters.

Phuketwan is among them. It's good to have him on Phuket's team.

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