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Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit, Phuketwan/Post Person of the Year 2010

Phuket's Person of the Year 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010
Phuket's Original Person of the Year Award

ANYONE who can save lives where it was previously thought there could never be hope deserves the accolade of Phuketwan/Phuket Post Phuket Person of the Year 2010.
Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit, the man behind Phuket's ''100% wear a helmet'' campaign, did more than just put helmets on heads for the first time.

The colonel, who is Superintendent at Phuket City Police Station, became the man with the plan. He challenged conventional thinking, and won.

He figured out a strategy for persuading thousands of reluctant people to wear helmets, and his innovative idea worked so well that his ''Phuket model'' is being adopted all over the island and elsewhere in Thailand.

If as a consequence one or two lives were saved, Colonel Wanchai's perseverance would be worthwhile. If thousands of lives are saved, as seems likely, the colonel deserves to be hailed as a local and national hero.

In proving the power of positive thinking, the colonel also proved that wearing a helmet is important, but what goes on in the head under the helmet is even more important.

While dedicating time in 2010 to his helmet campaign and to obliterating traffic blackspots on Phuket, the colonel also lead the investigation that solved Phuket's most sensational murder of the year.

In a case that began with a nameless, naked woman's body being found in a suitcase beside a Phuket roadside, Colonel Wanchai and his team pursued a ''bearded stranger'' and eventually captured American Ronald Fanelli, who killed bar hostess Wanpen Pianchai and is now pleading insanity.

Stetching Phuket's relatively meagre police resources further is always on the colonel's mind. His day begins with a visit to a Buddhist temple at 6am, and concludes after a badminton session late at night.

In between, anything could happen. Senior police on Phuket learn to expect the unexpected. Phuket has the capacity to be paradise one minute, perilous the next.

The great success of the helmet-wearing project lies in Colonel Wanchai's detective ability, the capacity to follow a few clues, to work out what needs to happen, and to carefully manage every stage.

First, he brought community leaders on board, turning them into role models by placing billboards of them wearing helmets in prominent places in local communities. Then he had them join a ceremony emphasising safety, giving away thousands of helmets to frontline motorcycle taxi riders.

At the same time, schools were persuaded to also spread the message, deducting points for students who failed to conform. Once the campaign began, the penalty for those who failed to comply was to attend a screening of a specially-made Phuket road safety movie.

From January 1, Phuket Police Commander Major General Pekad Tantipong and all Phuket stations will be applying the same techniques across the island.

There will be no instant transformation. Riders and their pillion passengers will dodge and weave and in some cases do their utmost to avoid wearing a helmet.

But attitudes and awareness are changing, thanks to the colonel. This is something many thought could never happen.

The helmet-wearing project is just one of 22 projects, large and small, that have occupied Colonel Wanchai when not solving crimes in 2010. In 2011, he plans on refining his idea of establishing ''I am a Camera'' volunteers to assist policing in Phuket City, especially after dark.

Perhaps the next most important on the colonel's long list is the introduction of mediation at Phuket City police station, where two rooms have been set aside so parties in dispute can negotiate.

The mediation process, expanded from the courts to Phuket police stations by former Chief Justice Varangkana Sujaritkul, is resolving major disputes that would otherwise drain the time of judges and police.

No doubt Phuket's ''100% helmet'' colonel will follow up a few more good ideas in 2011.
Phuketwan Phuket Person of the Year 2009
Phuketwan Award Our award this year could have gone to Winai 'JJ' Neiman but we opted instead for someone who deserves the recognition for his visionary work in more than one field.
Phuketwan Phuket Person of the Year 2009

Phuketwan Person of the Year 2008 Award
During the three day Phuket airport siege, Phuketwan updated more than 50 times, often to cover the latest information from a key figure whose skills were soon on show again in the Bangkok blockade.
Phuketwan Person of the Year 2008 Award

Phuket's Person of the Year for 2007
Phuket's Person of the Year for 2007 is a dreamer and a schemer. He is driven to help people achieve a higher standard of performance across all aspects of island life.
Phuket's Person of the Year for 2007

Comments

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Bravo and well done.
Happy new year. More helmets on, less lives turned off.
Bravo.

Posted by GrahamM on December 31, 2010 12:15

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No doubt the nay-sayers will wade in so I thought it might be nice to start the comments on a positive note. it's nice to see someone who goes against the perceived grain and tries to make a difference. Its a slow process but evolution, not revolution is the way ahead in Phuket. Nothing is going to happen overnight. Col Wanchai sems to be committed to what he believes in and i can only wish him further success.

My runner up would have been the ex-Governor- again a man fighting an uphill battle against entrenched mindsets and Spanish practices. He seemed committed to his ideals as well- its a shame they aren't in position long enough to make a real difference, given their lack of power.

Posted by Mister Ree on December 31, 2010 12:30

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Congrats for a job well done. My hat is off to him (that's only if I'm not on a motorbike).

This year we've seen a number of changes for the better and it does take time, planning and a little understanding from everyone.

Certainly an excellent step forward and well deserved recognition.

Posted by Graham on December 31, 2010 15:14

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Shane and I are sending our warmest congratulations to Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit. And wishing every one a happy new year. Hope to see more and more lives saved in 2011.Thank you again to every one for all there support and positive comments.

Monica and Shane.
MoM

Posted by monica on January 2, 2011 05:27

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Well done Colonel Wanchai.

It's a very good first step in the right direction.

But as i can view as a motorcycle driver by myself the following behaviours happen in the way motorcycle drivers are using the helmets.

Most of the younger people have the helmets in the front bag of their motorcycle and short time before circles or other known control points, they just grab the helmets and place them on the head, most of the times without closing the rim.
A short time after the circle, they do the helmet again into the basket.

And another worse thing happens.

In Europe we have 10 different helmet sizes from

XXXS 49-50, XXS 51-52, XS 53-54,
S 55-56, M 57-58, L 59-60, XL 61-62, XXL 63-64, XXXL 65-66

Here in Thailand is mostly only one Size L available.

A helmet which fits not perfectly is better than no helmet, but how useful is a helmet if its 2 or 3 numbers to big?
The drivers will loose the helmets when they have an accident.
What is standard in western countries should be not avoid for Thais.
Safety first means wearing a helmet, but better wearing a helmet that fits.

I know, there is now way to do the second or third step before the first one, but specially this two points are needed to get improved in the next 2 years and this should be project Nr. 23 and 24 from Colonel Wanchai.

I runned a motorcycle shop in Germany for 20 years, so i really know what i am talking about.

Posted by Happychris on January 5, 2011 09:29


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