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Special Report: Burmese manager climbs to the top of Phuket hotel industry

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Burmese manager climbs to the top of Phuket hotel industry | The Thaiger
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Special Report:

Kyaw Kyaw Khine is a piece of living Phuket history. At 47 years old, he is the first Burmese national to become a hotel manager in Phuket’s critical tourism industry, at one of the best known hotels on the island: the On On Hotel on Phang Nga Road in Phuket Town. Here he tells the story of his challenging road to success.

PHUKET: The opportunity for Kyaw Kyaw Khine, better known as “Joe”, to shine with a long career in Phuket’s tourism industry was made plain years ago, but the road ahead was set to be steep – and both he and the owner of The Treasury Village Group knew it.

“I want you to become my hotel manager. However, I am worried that you will have to face challenges to gain people’s acceptance. Are you ready for that?” the owner asked.

Joe has answered that question amply: today he is the Associate Property Operation Director for The Treasury Village Group, making him the manager of the renowned On On Hotel in Phuket Town (now called The Memory at On On – click here for story) and the Nasara House resort at Panwa Beach.

The long path to this crowning achievement rose out of the ashes of the “8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests”, also known as the People Power Uprising, in Rangoon (now called Yangon) on August 8, 1988.

Joe was a chemistry major at the University of Rangoon at the time.

“After the uprising, the government privatized some industries, including the hospitality trade. They opened 20 hotels around the country and recruited 10 staff for each hotel,” Joe explained.

“I remember that day very clearly. More than 10,000 people applied for the 200 positions available. I was lucky to get a job as a hotel receptionist.”

Joe attributed his early success to his proficiency in English.

“My English was probablywhat made me stand out from the other applicants,” he said.

Dream job

After two months of training – funded by the Burmese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) – Joe received a certificate from the Kandawgyi Hotel and Training Center Joe and spent the next six years working as a hotel receptionist and a part-time hotel business teacher.

During that time, Joe landed a job at The Strand Hotel. One of the most prestigious hotels in Myanmar, The Strand today charges up to US$1,500 per night. Despite his prize position, Joe took computer classes in order to be more competitive in the job market.

“I had to work for the government for at least five years, and in 1995 I received a government certificate allowing me to seek employment opportunities elsewhere. I could work on a ship or in an embassy. Working in a foreign country is everyone’s dream in Myanmar,” Joe explained.

“I took up a friend’s invitation to move to Thailand. I started working as a hotel receptionist on Phi Phi Island with a monthly salary of 4,000 baht,” he recalled.

In his 15 years of dedicated hard work since then, Joe encountered many challenges, among them culture shock.

“What I found most challenging was the difference between Thai and Burmese cultures. For example, Burmese like to argue. It is normal for us to argue, which sometimes may lead to a fight. Thais are more quiet and keep their feelings to themselves,” Joe explained.

Family

When the tsunami hit the Andaman coast in 2004, Joe realized how caring his employers were.

“As the fallout from the tsunami took its toll on tourism, many hotels cut staffing to half, but my owners kept everyone – they didn’t fire a single person.”

He spoke with gratitude of the couple – Veerapan Trisuvan, who passed away in 2011, and his wife Nasara Trisuvan, the current owner of The Treasury Village Group.

“I initially came here on a tourist visa and worked illegally. It was very complicated for a Burmese person to get a work permit in this country, more difficult than other foreigners,” he said.

“I consider myself very lucky to meet such wonderful owners. They helped me from the start with the legal process of obtaining a Thai work permit… They are family,” he added.

Acceptance

The post-tsunami rebuilding offered a golden chance for Joe to shine in his role as a manager. “As an Executive Assistant Manager at the time, I ordered everyone to help renovate the hotel. One of my workers was afraid to climb up and paint the ceiling, so I did it myself.

“Like my employer said earlier, it was not easy to gain acceptance at first. The key to success is to prove your abilities – not by words, but by actions. I showed them what I was capable of and they respected me for that,” Joe said calmly.

A key ingredient to success is patience, said Joe.

“There is a Buddhist saying, ‘Patience is our highest moral practice’. I would like to suggest this to all Burmese people working in Thailand. I started with nothing more than a salary of 4,000 baht a month and a determination for a better life – and I worked hard for it.

“Even though I was promoted to Front Desk Manager after only a few years of work, I still only got 6,000 baht per month. The market salary for my position was 20,000 baht. It took six to seven years before I finally got the market rate.

“I could not have overcome this without being patient,” he said.

All in the mind

Joe pointed out that many Burmese he had met complained about being looked down on.

“No one here is looking down on you, it all happens in your mind. When Thais go work in a western country, they feel looked down on too, but I don’t think they are.

“All you have to do is focus on the task at hand. Don’t imagine things that will hurt you. Just be the best person you can possibly be at whatever you do,” he urged.

With the Asean Economic Community (AEC) trade regulations to come into effect in 2015, Joe believes that workers from Myanmar will go home if the right employment opportunities arise.

“Thailand may face a labor shortage. The Thai government should come up with solutions to counter this. I believe that making it easier for people to travel back and forth across the border for work is a good solution to this problem,” he said.

Thailand’s long history as a land of bounty and opportunity likely plays a part in the Thai national psyche, Joe suggested.

“Thais are born with so many opportunities open to them, while Burmese have to struggle to gain anything. This may be why Thais are sometimes not serious enough. I would suggest Thais be more concerned about their lives and their work in order to be competitive with a wider source market of labor in the Asean community,” he said.

As for Burmese working illegally in Phuket and Thailand, Joe suggested that better education is what his country needs.

“The Burmese government should provide its people information about working abroad. People should be informed and assisted throughout the process of obtaining visas and work permits. No one wants to be illegal. Paying a broker 8,000 baht to come and work illegally is not appropriate,” he said.

“Also, it would be a good idea for Phuket to have a Myanmar Consulate or an Honorary Consul to assist Burmese workers. Right now, Burmese have to travel to Bangkok to seek help.

“It is time to change that,” he said.

Keep checking our local news for the latest affecting Phuket. Alternatively, join our Facebook fan page— Namsai Wongsaeree

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Air Pollution

Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today

The Thaiger

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Salty tap water and dirty air – Bangkok’s environmental woes continue today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Government House officials are turning to salt-tolerant plants - khaosod.co.th

Brackish tap water, with increased salinity caused by seawater back-flowing into the Chao Phraya River, is threatening the gardens in and around the Government House compound. Government House officials are seeking assistance from the Agriculture Department.

Several small tree species – Lamduan, Chor Sumalee, Rachavadi, Nom Maew and Hom Muenlee – are more vulnerable to brackish tap water. The gardens are watered from a supply pumped in from the Chao Phraya.

It’s been noted tha the saline level was around 400 milligrams per litre, still within the 1,000 mg/litre standard, but some of the species were already intolerant to the rising salinity.

Officials are seeking advice from the Agriculture Department about long-term measures to replant with species which would be more tolerant to the rising salinity of the water – situation they acknowledge will need to be managed in the short to medium term.

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

SCREENGRAB: Air Visual

Meanwhile, air around the capital today continues to be universally poor to very poor with readings as high as 187 near Suvarnabhumi Airport. Light airs, dust problems from northern-easter provinces and hot continental air flowing across the capital, continue to haunt Bangkok. Even with many factories closed today, and traffic lighter than weekdays, Bangkok’s air has been recorded as the ninth worst city in the world for air pollution.

Right across the city the air quality readings are into the ‘unhealthy’ zone.

Chiang Mai, Lampang and Central Thailand are fairing no better – all with readings at least 3 times the Thai upper safe limit of 50 microns of 2.5micron particulate per cubic metre. The World Health Organisation sets its limit even lower at 25.

Pattaya has air quality readings today of 162, whilst even Phuket, in the south, is registering readings between 100 and 145 with reduced visibility today.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

Salty tap water and dirty air - Bangkok's environmental woes continue today | News by The Thaiger

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Business

Three massive condo developments along Phuket’s up-market Layan Beach

Bill Barnett

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Three massive condo developments along Phuket’s up-market Layan Beach | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Northern end of Layan Beach - True-beachfront

by Bill Barnett – c9hotelworks.com

Two new condo developments are going ahead in the Layan Beach area of Phuket’s up-market west-coast beach strip. And there’s another one underway next to the Dream Beach Club at the northern end of the Layan beach strip. All in all, another 1,200+ keys added to the available rooms along the Bang Tao/Layan Beach area.

On the northern side of Bangtao Beach, next to Maan Tawan and nearby Banyan Tree Phuket is the upcoming Sunshine Beach development. With a plan for 771 hotel and residences units on 12.6 rai, the high-density project is targeting Mainland Chinese buyers with pricing points reportedly starting from 4 million baht. Construction is expected to start in June of this year and complete in 2022.

From our discussion with sales staff the developer has claimed they have reached an agreement with the government for beach fronting facilities in the National Park strip in front of the project.

While in Layan next to Lotus Gardens is the upcoming 400 unit Layan Green Park. Pricing points run from 2.5 million baht. Unit configurations will range from studio, to one, two and three bedrooms. Guaranteed returns of 10% for a period of 10 years are being promoted.

Phuket’s Layan area is seeing a surge in new real estate led projects and rising land values. At the same time as these two projects are underway, next to the Dream Beach is an oceanfront luxury project promoting sales of Grand Beach Villa and Ocean View Suites tagged as ‘N5’. The developer of the project is VIP Thailand who have another project in Rawai.

Based on our research the primary source market tragets of these three projects are mainland Chinese and Russian buyers. Local concerns in the Cherngtalay area over mounting traffic, water shortages and strain on municipal infrastructure are becoming issues.

Traffic in and around the central Cherngtalay shopping district is becoming increasingly clogged with little hope for respite other than improved traffic management.

SOURCE: C9Hotelworks.com

Three massive condo developments along Phuket's up-market Layan Beach | News by The Thaiger

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Business

Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court

The Thaiger

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Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MINOR International are trying to kick Marriott out of it's Mai Khao property - Booking.com

Marriott International, the American international hotel company, has failed in its bid to secure an injunction in a Thai court to stop a legal claim filed by the Minor International group.

Minor International (MINT) says that its subsidiary MI Squared Ltd had filed a legal claim in a Thai court against Marriott International and the Thai subsidiary Luxury Hotels & Resorts (Thailand) for 570,605,134 baht. The claim is linked to the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa in Mai Khao, which is owned by MINT. In the statement, MINT accuses Marriott of “acting in bad faith” alleging “serious and repeated breaches of Thai law”, according to ttrweekly.com.

The complaint from MINT alleges that Marriott was openly competing with the JW Marriott Phuket through its operation of competing Marriott-branded hotels in Phuket. Claims are made that the Mai Khao hotel uses its facilities to promote Marriott’s other competing Marriott hotels. Another of the complaints accuses Marriott of forcing the JW Marriott Phuket to accept high volumes of low-margin business through the Marriott’s loyalty program.

According to the ttrweekly.com article, the legal dispute includes allegations that Marriott “misappropriated MINT’s confidential and proprietary information” to promote Marriott’s competing hotels and unlawfully benefit Marriott’s own interests at the expense of MINT. The JW Marriott Phuket remains under Marriott’s management for now but “the operating performance has been poor”.

MINT told shareholders total hotel revenue decreased from 920 million in 2013 to 876 million baht last year. Over the same period, gross operating profit fell from 409 million to 379 million baht.

(It should be noted that many of Phuket’s high-end hotels have suffered a similar revenue fall due to increased competition, competitive pressures pushing room rates down and, especially over the past 12 months, a shift in tourist demographics.)

Marriott International issued a statement to ttrweekly.com following a request for comment.

“Marriott International acknowledges that a subsidiary of Minor International has initiated legal action in Thailand against Marriott and one of its Thai subsidiaries. Marriott reiterates that such claim is meritless and should be heard in confidential arbitration.

Our Thai subsidiary recently secured an interim injunction in arbitral proceedings restraining MINT’s subsidiary from pursuing the action in Thailand. We subsequently agreed with MINT to suspend the Thai proceedings pending the final outcome of our ongoing arbitration. As we intend to comply with our contractual confidentiality obligations, we are unable to provide more information at this time.

We consider JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa has performed well compared to the market. The dispute will have no impact on operations at the hotel, which continues to offer guests with world-class service and accommodations, a beachfront location and eleven culinary options.”

SOURCE: ttrweekly.com

Minor International battles Marriott over popular Phuket hotel property in court | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: marriott.com

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