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The Planet Phuket Project: Hunt for a Lee Kuan Yew Solution

The Planet Phuket Project: Hunt for a Lee Kuan Yew Solution

Saturday, March 5, 2011
LEE KUAN YEW was the benevolent dictator who founded Singapore, just the kind of leader that Phuket needs right now to preserve its natural attributes, obliterate greed and corruption, and ensure that the island has a future for generations to come.

So a Phuketwan team recently went to Singapore in search of a mechanism for rescuing Phuket. We found someone who is no savior, but who is a Thai, who has some excellent ideas, and who is willing to help Phuket find its own answers.

At Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy we encountered Ora-orn Poocharoen, the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, who undertook to see if she could give Phuket what it needs.

The upshot is that LKY will consider sending senior students - only masters degree and post-graduate scholars study at the school - as interns to Phuket for up to one year to investigate specific issues, and to offer solutions and ways of looking at helping Phuket achieve what it needs.

On returning to Phuket, we put the concept to the chief executive of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, Paiboon Upatising, who welcomed acting as the client organisation to oversee investigations.

Over the coming days, Phuketwan will be publishing excerpts from our conversation with Ajarn Ora-orn, bringing readers on-board with the scale and scope of what's involved, and what the gains could be for Phuket.

Phuketwan has always insisted that its journalists have no shortage of questions. In the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, we may just have found an organisation that can sensibly provide some answers.

To go to Singapore is by no means intended as a slight to those people in Thailand who probably have some of the answers that Phuket needs, too. The issues on Phuket, though, are particularly complex and growing more intense as pressures mount, especially on the environment, and especially on administrators.

Our aim is to relieve some of those pressures, and to seek practical solutions to the crisis of management of Phuket's future.

''The issues are just huge and complex,'' Ajarn Ora-orn said as we talked in her office at the faculty. ''If enough effort was put in, Phuket could be a model city in the sense that it has a good balance between tourism and environmental protection.

''Phuket would be a challenge, yes, but it does need urgent attention. And because it is adored by the international community, in that sense Phuket can gain help from the international community more easily.''

Look for the transcript of the Phuketwan conversation with Ajarn Ora-orn.
The Planet Phuket Project: Hunt for a Lee Kuan Yew Solution
The Search for Answers Phuket and its melting pot of people and problems may become a study case for some of the brightest public policy students in the region. We'll tell you what happens next.
The Planet Phuket Project: Hunt for a Lee Kuan Yew Solution

Planet Phuket Project: How Phuket Went Wrong
The Quest for Answers Clarity is being sought to solve Phuket's problems with some help from scholars at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
Planet Phuket Project: How Phuket Went Wrong

The Planet Phuket Project: Crunching Island Corruption
The Quest for Answers Phuket has the offer of expert help now to prepare the island for a corruption free future, necessary to achieve fairness and balance for future generations.
The Planet Phuket Project: Crunching Island Corruption

Planet Phuket Project: Making Tuk-Tuks, Taxis Fair
The Quest for Answers Phuketwan's Planet Phuket Project, with Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy, aims to find ways of solving corruption and other problems on the holiday island.
Planet Phuket Project: Making Tuk-Tuks, Taxis Fair

Dear PM, Please Make Phuket Corruption-Free
Latest Happy Birthday, Mr Prime Minister. Here's a gift to you, an idea that could make Phuket and perhaps Thailand better places. Start your fight against corruption here, on one small island.
Dear PM, Please Make Phuket Corruption-Free

Phuket Corruption: Enough, Say Patong Victims
Photo Album A public seminar on Phuket has senior officials revealing the scale of existing corruption among 14 government bodies - and attempts by more to join in.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


LKY might have been the first Prime Minister of the Singaporean republic, but Thomas Raffles is recognised as the founder of Singapore.

Posted by AntzPantz on March 6, 2011 12:19

Editor Comment:

Yes, we're talking about the country, not the colony.


Great idea but why just focus on Phuket? The whole country needs it.

Posted by malc on March 6, 2011 13:17


Complex issues - The main issue has and always will be graft. Those few individual who control and will not let go of what they have.

As the Governor said: "There are no dark Influences in Phuket." If this is truly the case, the change could be made and made effectively.

While Phuket, and indeed Thailand, run on the social acceptance of "graft is OK providing I get my cut" then you cannot and never will effect change.

This story is an old one and one that is going to get played out over and over, while nothing gets done. How much in the last five years has been achieved in removing obstacles that would allow Phuket and Thailand as a whole to become a world-class destination for both tourism and business?

Posted by Graham on March 6, 2011 16:59


Mmh, a lot of people I know need a swift kick in the butt but for some reason they don't seem to be keen to recieve one.

Point being - just because something is, perhaps even desperately needed, doesn't mean it will be embraced.

How about boot camps ?

Posted by Chris on March 6, 2011 17:16


While I admire Singapore's uncorrupt and lean and effective government and its bereaucrats, the country is hardly a place to be inspired by when it comes to "public policy". The citizens of Singapore are not free, there is no free media and no democrazy. A speakers corner in some park is not enough to impress anyone.

Posted by christian on March 28, 2011 18:45

Editor Comment:

Not too many people are complaining in Singapore these days, christian.


"Not too many people complaining in Singapore..."

I think this was Christian's point! If you do complain, criticize, you run the risk of serious punishment through the courts or other means. Amnesty Int'l report here:

It is a lovely, safe place to long as you toe the line.

Posted by Lana on March 28, 2011 21:37



Yes, thats true. It seems the government has come to some sort of agreement with the population, no political freedom in exchange for law and order, economic development, quality schooling and a generally very high standard of living. Since the majority of Singaporeans are ethnic chinese, it has led to a quite interesting discussion wether konfucianism is the reason as to why the citizens of Singapore are content with this "deal". It would very likely never work in the western world, where we put such emphasis on personal liberty and development. Its a cultural thing according to some. Konfucianism has never been a strong influence in Thailand, so its rather unlikely people here would give up their freedom to vote in exchange for development. Hence all the turbulence since 1932 when the absolute monarchy was abolished, all the way up to the present day.

Posted by christian on March 28, 2011 22:32

Editor Comment:

Personal freedom appears to be improving in Singapore but becoming more restricted in Thailand. Prosperity always comes at a price, and Phuket is certainly still paying its dues.


This is the best bit of good advice i have seen..but i am sorry to say it will never be taken here in PHUKET in my lifetime..Corruption and personal greed is so ingrained will take a miracle to make it work...There are people here trying to make it work, and i have met many of them, but i am afraid they are in a minority.. foreigners have no chance..we only have opinions..

Posted by john devenport on March 29, 2011 05:19

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