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'Dr Prab' Keesin: A man with a big investment in Phuket's future

Patong's Future, According to 'Dr Prab'

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Person

If there is a face that represents the future of Patong, it is the face of Preechavude ''Dr Prab'' Keesin. The son of Mayor Pian Keesin, Dr Prab is MD of the family's Pisona Group. Hotels, restaurants, entertainment, tours, accommodation, Pisona has a broad spread of tourism-related businesses. Dr Prab, born in 1976 on Phuket, finished his masters studies at California State University doing finance, worked in banking, then after the 2004 tsunami, returned to Patong. He is also President of the Patong Taxi Federation and president of the committee overseeing the quality of police work in Patong.

The Family Biz

I have to run around 20 companies. My staff number about 1000 people. I will soon have more because I am going to open a new hotel, it will be 744 rooms in Patong. In 2012 I will have about 1000 rooms in Patong for hotels. Now I run places for some of my friends in the Patong Bay group. We do activities with the local people and with taxi people.

Tuk-tuk Tic-tac

Three years ago the CEO of Jungceylon called me to talk about taxis. For 30 years we have been doing contracts through Pisona Tours and we are only allowed 23 cars for support. Taxis when they park have many groups, with no system. So I talked to them and we set up a group at Jungceylon. We set up a system with uniforms, english studies, and radios. Every time the city has an activity, we have a campaign. Every meeting we talk about how to make Patong stronger. How to set a fair price, how to provide better service. People must have pride in being a taxi driver.

Why so many

Drivers have to wait hours for business. There are too many tuk-tuks. You have to keep your car where it is registered. It's better than doing other things, not having a job. Many people don't have an education and don't speak english. When I was growing up there may have been 50 tuk-tuks. Now there are 600, maybe. We try to make them understand. We give them knowledge, how to be good, fair, honest. Before, we didn't talk together. It's like a social sanction - the pressure is on to improve. We have a plan. We do it step by step.

The system

The area system prevents groups from picking up passengers in another area, so passengers have to pay double. They have to come back empty. So passengers pay for both ways.

Patong's Future

Patong needs to be about fun and lifestyle but we have to keep the green areas, the beach. We have a lot of entertainment. We should have some cities to make money, to spread out through the national economy. A good beach, green area . . . in the future, Patong should be a special zone. It can also be a centre of world finance as well as tours and entertainment, like Hong Kong or Singapore. That's what I think. If you want quiet, you go to some other place.

Room Prices

I think there are not too much rooms. We perhaps have to set up an association to set standards for prices. A, five star, 6000 baht up, etc, B, C . . . so that no-one can sell lower than 500 baht a night for a simple room. The city has to check about this. We need to add quality. We need to set up an association and work with the city.

Nature

We still have laws limiting buildings above 80 metres, that's good. We should stop making roads to the hills, though. I want the government to buy back land. Stop constructing, stop making roads to the hills. We should do something now. We should keep the green areas.

Beach chairs

I want the government to buy out the beach chairs. Keep the beaches clean. I have many things in my ideas. The vendors can rent out towels instead. The government has to buy back the lounges. We have to have real control. Otherwise there are triple lines of lounges, and no control. We tried to talk with the vendor association many times. The people who have the right to work on the beach should work more together. It should be a city law: no more beach chairs.

New Generations

The old Patong people are becoming less and less. It should become easier to change. Bangla, a littler more up Sansabai, we should have laws governing opening to 6am ir we should have a law saying 24 hours, but for me 6am is enough. For discotheques, karaokes, the sound should be covered. The problem is the owners, the entertainment people. They go to police and try to push them. What are police, what are they going to do?

Closing hours

We have to spread out the money for the good future of Patong. We open late, but no drugs. No people under 18. Don't do something bad. We don't have too many drugs. We work together. Police come to close a little bit late. Maybe they start closing early. They do their job. Let people have fun. People come here to be happy.

Construction

If I had authority, I'd stop it. I see in Europe they have unique designs. We don't want ugly things, we want something good for tourists. I would say, ok we have 20 designs for you. I would have to stop my new resort, too, if the law said we stop. I have 60 rai, we will build on only 20. Forty is clean, I keep it natural and don't cut the trees too much.

Family

The mayor is my Dad. He has been a very good Dad. Biut when we work, we are totally different. I am financial, he is political. I do not think like a politician. I always do business for social reasons. When Patong people have good knowledge, good minds, Patong is going to be happy. Everything here starts with people. I think, It is not all about money.

The Future

I want Patong to be famous, to be ready to be a world-class city. I think about Singapore and Hong Kong, green and civilised. When people come we want them to come to see the sea first. We need to improve Loma Park. Let them see Patong. Now it's going the wrong way, the one-way.

Mafia

They [tuk-tuks] just protect their area. It is not like Italy 50years ago. OK, some bad people we have. But we don't call them mafia, they just protect their workplace areas. They just protect their areas only. 'If you park here, we won't allow it.' We need the new system along beach road.

Soi Bangla

It's so expensive to rent because it is like a landmark. Everyone comes to Patong because of Bangla. They want to see ladyboys, or bar girls. They want to go shopping. The landmark of Patong is not Patong beach. The landmark of Patong is Soi Bangla. In one hour Bangla makes 50 million baht. We worked out from 10pm to 2am, in four hours, every bar makes 2000, 3000 baht an hour, a discotheque maybe 50,000-100,000 baht every hour. There are almost 800 bars.

Corruption

When we talk about corruption in Patong, we have to talk about the whole world. Every country has it the same. Between business and the law, they work together. There is give and take. Patong is Patong. Police do not accept drugs. The thing is 50-50 between business and government. They do not allow bad things. I think it is bad, but sometimes we have to understand. The city is changing, but the law is very old. We need to have income for education, good health, and generally, corruption is not too bad. But we do not want more. We should change the law to avoid corruption. It's like a secret. Nobody knows who takes the money. Nobody knows the exact number. It has happened for 200 years already. The corruption in Patong is like a ghost: never seen, but we know it's there.

This article first appeared in the new, regular 'The Heat' column in the Phuket Post Issue 145.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Interesting, positive guy --- let's take him at his word, address that welter of responsibility/authority of politics, bureaucracy and police that's been highlighted lately, set tangible priorities with Phuketwan to keep us aware of it all.

Posted by ssresident on December 1, 2010 11:33

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"The Future"
"I want Patong to be famous, to be ready to be a world-class city. I think about Singapore and Hong Kong"
First need to ban the prostitution, or if it doesn't exist, bars and lady bars must disappear. Does someone think that it is possible???

Posted by Richard on December 1, 2010 12:52

Editor Comment:

Are you kidding? Singapore and Hong Kong both have vast numbers of prostitutes. Nothing wrong with katoeys, either.

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If he wanna become the new major of Patong where can collect the votes?? Tuk tuk drivers and taxi and their family can give him already a large portion: so anyone can believe he wanna really do something against the will of tuk tuk??

Posted by pop on December 1, 2010 13:00

Editor Comment:

The evidence is that 'Dr Prab' Keesin recognises the need for change, and everything he says indicates that he is not interested in going into politics.

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I know some Thais who describe him the best boss they ever worked for. They really like him, being kind, warm, friendly and caring to his employees. Even so they can tell stories, that some can behave a little bit more equal to the law in this town and if you stand on the opposite side of a "discussion" prepare for mighty impact.

Anyone seen Boardwalk Empire lately?

What I cannot stand is his view on corruption, but then I am not working or as in his case running big parts of this sinful moneymaking town.

Personally I am very thankful to him, even so he will not know why. But with a little friendly gesture, he changed my life for the better some years ago.

Posted by Lena on December 1, 2010 13:21

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99% of what Dr.Prab points out makes sense, legalise longer opening hours, they are here anyhow, no point to turn the clock back on Patong, it's not going to be "green " again, make it good at what is is \. A fun city near the beach, that's why people come. Hope Dr. Prab goes into politics to change the things he envisions for Patong.

Posted by wm on December 1, 2010 14:49

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Er, So he does not hold a doctorate, correct?
His view on police innocence and what constitutes organised crime is not realistic, IMHO.

Posted by Media Watcher on December 1, 2010 14:50

Editor Comment:

What passes for extortion in Patong falls well short of genuine Mafia activity. No point in exaggerations.

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so he wants price fixing for hotel rooms instead of price fixing for tuk tuks - very progressive thinking!!

Posted by another steve on December 1, 2010 14:51

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...."Patong should be a special zone. It can also be a centre of world finance as well as tours and entertainment, like Hong Kong or Singapore. That's what I think. If you want quiet, you go to some other place."

nicely said...and what about the people that have been living here supporting this community that work regular day job hours as well as have children that that attend school here who need their sleep and live in neighborhoods that are clearly affected by the concert and bar noise behind Jungceylon playing till 3am?...The hell with them right Prab?...so if they want quiet, they need to go to some other place??...is that right?...Noise is an issue that needs to be addressed and settled fairly

Posted by sky on December 1, 2010 14:53

Editor Comment:

Dr Prab actually says specifically elsewhere in the interview that noise needs to be kept in.

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The police in Singapore recognise the need for prostitution so they control most of it.

Posted by Brian on December 1, 2010 16:28

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He is son of the ... (moderated)
But the editor of this newspaper is so in love with them it makes me sick !

Posted by Peter on December 1, 2010 18:29

Editor Comment:

Peter, This is not a newspaper, and my love interest is no business of yours. Feel free to relay every bit of gossip you hear - on your own site.

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Dear Richard: [Start rant] Wake up! Ban prostitution and you will half the number of tourists in Thailand.. and push it underground.. just like the 'war on drugs' does. I'm sick of these ****ing people who treat adults like children, trying to tell people what they can or can't put in their bodies. [end rant]

Posted by Sick Buffalo on December 1, 2010 21:25

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Patong, a centre of world finance????

Well, perhaps a centre for Isaan finance!

Posted by Carl on December 1, 2010 22:42

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No exaggerations.
Does or doesn't the " Dr" hold a doctorate?

Posted by Media Watcher on December 2, 2010 09:04

Editor Comment:

You'd have to ask ''Dr Prab'' yourself to get an accurate response, and I'm sure he'd be happy to give you one, but my understanding is that it's an affectionate nickname based on his reputation as a source of good advice. He doesn't pretend it's genuine, and there may even be times when he feels embarrassed by it.

I see you still phrase even simple questions in a confrontational, non-Thai fashion.

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First off I would like to say that any discussion about problems in Patong/Phuket by those in authority is a positive sign. Only through dialogue can we achieve change. It may not happen overnight or be easy but this is the right way. I fully support this development.

That said, there are a few comments I'd like to make to what Khun Prab has said, if I may.


TUK TUKS

It's good to see he agrees there are too many of them too. Him being the president of the Taxi drivers he also ultimately carries the biggest responsibility for both successes and failures in the system.

PATONG's FUTURE

I have to say his comparison with Singapore and Hong Kong is ridiculous. I would like to think he didn't really mean it the way it came out. In those places people in general have a genuine will to do things the right way, do them better. Something that's chronically lacking in Phuket and Thailand as a whole. A country or city ultimately reflects the people who run it. Phuket is what it's leaders are. If they don't change, Phuket will not change either.

ROOM PRICES

A price cartel is of no benefit to anyone, except for those who wish to overcharge. He seems to wish to implement the same pricing policy on hotel rooms as he does with the tuk tuks. Free market economy is certainly not something he caught on while studying in California.
I absolutely oppose any sort of price fixing for hotel rooms. Not only would the tourists suffer but what would happen to those hotel operators not willing to comply with his demands ?

BEACH CHAIRS

I would not want to lay on the sand on a towel. Perhaps some would but I fail to see why the beach chairs are a bad thing in his opinion.

CLOSING HOURS

Whatever the time is, it must be supported by the law so there is no angle for the police to demand payment for allowing some remain open beyond that time. Apply the law equally to everyone to ensure a level playing field.

CONSTRUCTION

I'm sure he has the authority to stop his 700+ room hotel construction but chose not to. Sounds hypecrital to me.

FAMILY

It would be interesting to see how the competitors to Khun Prab have fared in bidding contests staged by the City of Patong.

CORRUPTION

This is the saddest part of his views to me by far. "we should change the law to avoid corruption" No, Khun Prab, the attitude of the people should change to respect the law. The police should police it fair and just and the courts should apply it equally to everyone.

Corruption is NOT the same in every country. That's why there are lists published every year as to how bad the corruption is in each country. If you look at the list, Thailand is way down there, for a reason.

We are talking about corruption in Patong and Phuket. What happens in other countries is irrelevant. You have no control over that but being in your position both you and your father have a lot of influence on what happens in Patong. Sadly, you don't seem to think corruption is something that should be eliminated.

Posted by Chris on December 2, 2010 10:14

Editor Comment:

'Dr Prab' doesn't have the opportunity to respond so I'll do it as devil's advocate (no smart comments required.) My impression is that 'Dr Prab' has a sense of vision that extends a couple of generations into the future, well beyond the life expectancy of the average Patong sexpat. He appears to be sincere in saying his new hotel will be ''green'' because two thirds of the property will be left in a natural state. As a businessperson, he is hardly going to not make the most of his opportunities. That's commonsense. Corruption is an inherited issue, stretching back 200 years. If he is looking into the future 40 years in the way that Lee Kuan Yew did with Singapore, then change may come with progress.

We spoke to 'Dr Prab' because of his potential influence on Phuket and its future. This doesn't mean we necessarily support what he says, only that we support non-judgemental debate and transparency. There are others whose views we will report in future.

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Dear Ed,
Had you been in Singapore or Hong Kong? Really do you think that is like here??
And what about the long history of Singapore or Hong Kong? Is it comparable with Patong? And what about the finance and commerce? Like someone well spoken already the maximum reachable for Patong is to become the centre of Isaan Finanace...

Posted by Richard on December 2, 2010 10:26

Editor Comment:

I think 'Dr Prab' was looking further into Patong's future than next week or even next year. I'd say his vision extends 40 years ahead.

How big and wired was Singapore in 1966? Not very.

As for prostitution in Singapore and Hong Kong, yes, I've lived in Hong Kong and walked around Singapore's Geylang district. Street hookers, short-time hotels, whores in ''fishbowls'' . . . this is modern Singapore, largely because of its huge immigrant labor population. Sin city.

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Yes, I admit some of my words were perhaps unnecessarily confrontational, I do apologize for that.

Certainly there will be a lot of differing opinions and views on this subject but we should not let that prevent us from appreciating the fact that there is finally a much needed dialogue between those in power and the public, including the expat community.

I thank Khun Prab for taking the time to give us his views and I hope he is not offended by opinions perhaps not in agreement with his.

A common misconception is also that the opinions or views a media outlet publishes reflect their own view on the subject. Not so. A balanced media outlet publishes both sides of the story.

Posted by Chris on December 2, 2010 11:35

Editor Comment:

An interview is a representation of one person's viewpoint. An investigation is quite different. Thorough balance comes over time.


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