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Montavee Hongsyok

Assistant managing director of Anuphas Vividhkarn and a member of one of Phuket’s most prominent Thai-Chinese families, Montavee Hongsyok shares his thoughts on the role of local businesses and people in solving the island’s challenges.

March 2014

Tell us a bit about your family history.
My ancestors migrated to Thailand from China and I'm the fourth generation. My great grandfather was born in Thailand. He wasn’t rich and had to work very hard. He bought fish from the fishermen to sell in the market. Then he started to make some money and tried to do many things, some successfully, some not. He had a chance to buy a soon-to-be-abandoned tin mine, so he started his own tin mine. After the tin mine era was over, we started other businesses such as gas stations, car dealerships, automobile bodywork and painting, car accessories, golf course, housing and real estate projects.

What’s your role in Anuphas group?
I studied civil engineering and earning a master’s degree in water resource and environmental engineering. I apply this knowledge to my job. My family wants me to help take care of the real estate part of our business.

What projects are you working on now?
My priority is the Chao Fah City project, which started with the Honda showroom; that’s why started to work in Honda. I’m responsible for expanding Honda, and we’re opening a new branch in Thalang in the middle of next year. For Mazda we have two branches, including the one we just opened at Chao Fah City. I think a new Ford showroom will be coming soon. We have the master plan for this area to be like an 'Auto Land', a one stop area for cars, just like they have in the USA.

What about your family now?
I have one brother, Monthep, who’s now living in Florida in the US with his Taiwanese wife and two children. He’s a manager working in the IT department of a group of hospitals. My father, Khun Montri, is a very happy, easygoing man. Every day after he finishes work he goes out to fly his radio controlled airplanes.

He’s almost 73 and has been doing that since he was 13 years old. Imagine 60 years playing the same thing! He used to fly them at the airport (he had permission!) when only three planes a day arrived in Phuket; he knew exactly what time the planes were coming so he could land his radio-controlled plane on a real runway! He’s found a very good way to relax, which I think is what makes him happy. I wish I could be more like him in that way.

What do you like to do to relax?
I like to exercise, sometimes swimming or jogging and I like golfi ng and scuba diving. I just came back from diving in Sipadan, Malaysia. It’s a beautiful island and when you dive you can see how well they protect it. Patong once had beautiful coral reef and marine life, and the beach was one of the best in the world. But see what’s happened now. It’s changed a lot. It’s so sad, we live here but I have to go diving somewhere else.

What could be done about these changes?
Everyone has to cooperate. Non-profit groups promoting sustainable development are one way forward. For our business, we’re not focusing only on profit, but also on providing work for people and doing good things for the community. For example, we’ve given away a lot of land to use for hospitals, schools, police stations, temples, roads and more.

What are the most positive changes you’ve seen?
I can see that now people are aware of what we should do to help make Phuket a good place to live, the place to do business in the future. We hear more and more discussion about how Phuket can be sustainable, how we can manage all the problems.

Even with the protests now, I can see that the new generation is more aware of politics and the rights of the people. It’s not like before when we thought it was nothing really to do with us. Now it’s like it's knocking on your door. Everyone’s affected by that. The positive thing I can see is that people feel they’ve got to do something. Not just dreaming, but having real ideas for change.

What's the issue that needs to be fixed most urgently?
Transportation. It’s not only infrastructure, but the people who use the roads have to follow the rules; we have a lot of accidents. I’m the vice-president of the Phuket Real Estate Association and we’ve run two seminars to discuss how to deal with the transportation problem. Politicians from Bangkok came to the seminars and later on we got funds to improve the roads and transportation in Phuket.

The key is cooperation. We already have the information. We have the police, the OrBorTor [subdistrict councils], the department of roads and rural roads and others. They have to use all the data to solve the problems together in a way that’s beneficial for the whole island.

People have started using social media to help. I opened a Line channel called “Phuket Traffic" (in Thai), hoping that it would be a tool where the members can share useful information. For example, when drivers see a heavy traffic or an accident they can post it to the channel; some radio stations even use the information. In the morning we host the radio channel 93 from 8.30 to 9.00 to update people on the traffic situation. It’s very easy. Everyone can just type, take a photo or even record their voice to share.

What kind of car do you drive?
A Honda CR-Z. It’s only 1.5L but with a hybrid engine and hybrid battery. It’s fun to drive, a great design and saves gas. If you expand the trunk you can put in three golf bags! There are only a couple of CR-Zs in Phuket. This model came after the Honda factory in Ayuthaya was flooded in 2011, so they started to import three models including the CR-Z.

Was that a nightmare time for you, with Honda under water?
We didn’t have any cars for sale for eight months. We could only fix the cars, but we could hardly even do that because before the floods in Thailand there was the tsunami in Japan, which already affected the manufacturing of cars. The car business is not easy.

Aside from the Phuket Real Estate Association, are you involved with any other clubs or associations?
I’m in the Peranakan Association and my company also supports this. Khun Sukanya Phuttipun, my aunt, is a vice-president. We have been trying to preserve our culture while turning Phuket old town into a tourist attraction. I’m also in the Phuket Environmental Foundation.

We have meetings almost every month with people from different industries and some local politicians to try to see how we can make Phuket a better place to live.

What do you think the future holds for you?
My dreams are not big. I just want to make this place good for living, where I can raise my family, and where perhaps the next generation will remember me as one of the guys who did some good things on this island.

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