Phuket Opinion: Preserving the essence of Phuket

General Manager of Business and Network Development at DaimlerChrysler (Thailand) Co Ltd, Pannate Rangsinturat, 36, is a Phuket native. She graduated from Chulalongkorn University with a degree in international relations and has earned a master’s degree in European studies from Cambridge University.

Here she talks about the changes she sees when she returns to Phuket and how they can be better managed.

PHUKET: I was born and raised in Phuket, and though I’ve travelled the world and lived in different countries and worked in Bangkok for years, I have never stopped thinking of myself as a Phuketian. I go home whenever I have a holiday, and one day I will move back permanently.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Phuket over the years, and though some of them are good, there are a couple which make me unhappy because they are changing the very essence of the island.

One is uncontrolled development, and the other is the growing numbers of foreigners.

Every time I come back, I notice new roads and new buildings. In some sense we can say that these are positive signs of development, but they make me a little sad, because I think the growth is happening too fast, in too many directions, and without real organization. It is causing the destruction of Phuket’s most valuable resource – its natural beauty.

Something similar is happening because of the growing number of foreigners on the island. I’m not against foreigners, and I think their presence has some positive features – they contribute to our economic growth and bring elements of international culture and lifestyle.

However, too many of those outside cultural elements could cause our own way of life to be affected and irreparably changed, as we adjust our lifestyle to theirs.

Just as the government should plan and control development carefully, they should also take care in terms of how much foreign influence they allow, whether it be investment, expats or tourists. They should carefully screen foreigners who come here.

Not all the changes I’ve noticed are bad ones. People in Phuket are growing more appreciative of our traditional culture, and that’s a great thing. They’re organizing more events and activities that celebrate our history, such as the Old Phuket Fair and Baba Yaya events. And they’re taking steps to preserve Sino-Portuguese architecture.

When I was younger, I dreamed of spending my life abroad, in Europe, because I love countries with long histories and unique cultures. I spent two years in England and four years in Germany, and my business trips have taken me to many other countries.

All that travel and living abroad made me realize there’s no place like home. Europe is my second home now, but it’s only in Thailand that I can truly rest my mind.

And where I really want to be is Phuket. To me, Phuket offers a unique harmony between city life, business life and nature. That’s its special charm. And it’s this mix that makes Phuket people who we are. We are easy going, but active; down to earth, but confident. We are strong and direct.

I grew up in Phuket back in the days before kids had to go to tutor sessions after school. I just focused on my lessons while I was in school. I think that’s enough for children. I have very fond memories of my schools, Muang Phuket Municipal School, Satree Phuket School and Phuket Wittayalai School. I am what I am today partly because they taught me so well.

With my Phuket education I was able to study at universities in Bangkok and abroad, and feel confident competing with others. I’d like to tell parents who let their children study in Phuket, you’ve made the right choice. There’s no need to send them anywhere else; I’m proof of that.

My dream now is to return to Phuket and open a boutique hotel and coffee shops. I miss the beach!

— Orawin Narabal

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