Jul 23, 2015 | Atlanta, GA
Bangkok is an enormous, modern metropolis, full of interesting contrasts. On the one hand, it has traffic that makes Atlanta feel like a walk in the park – two hours to go less than 10 miles in rush hour, which lasts most of the day and night! On the other hand, it boasts a royal palace full of the extraordinary history of the people of Thailand, conjuring memories of the movie the “King and I” which is based on Rama lV, one of the monarchs in the line of the present royal family. The palace is a sight to behold, it too being full of contrasting Thai, European and Chinese styles and art.
Our stay has been made extremely easy and comfortable because of the help and generosity of Mr. Charn Uswachoke, Chairman of BBUCH Holdings, along with his son and Georgia Tech graduate, Mr. Chawit Uswachoke, EE 2013, and daughter Ms. Chawisara Uswachoke. Among the many things Mr. Uswachoke did for us was to host a wonderful dinner at the historical Mandarin Oriental Hotel, an absolutely gorgeous setting along the river.
Several distinguished alumni joined us, among them Mr. Pramode Vidtayasuk (MS, Textile Engineering '77), Assistant Minister, Ministry of Industrial; Mr. Pongdith Potchana (MS CE ’80), CEO of Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding among other directorship positions; Mr. Panisuan Jamnarnwej (MS IE ’79, PhD IE’86), Managing Director of Pakfood Public Co. Ltd (world leader in seafood processing); Mr. Thanarak Phongphatra (MS ICS’82) Vice Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries and Vice President of Southern Palm Oil Industry; Mr. Padetpai Meekun-iam, Chairman of Industrial Development Foundation, and Former Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Industry (MS ME, ‘69); Mr. Piyapan Tayanithi (MS ICS ’86, MS MGT ’87, MS IE ’89, PhD MGT ’91), Executive Vice-President of Bangkok Bank; and Mr. Viboon Sangveraphunsiri (MS, ME '79, PhD, ME '84), Professor, Chulalongkorn University.
You can see this was an extraordinarily accomplished group with significant influence in Thai business and society – and a fun loving group.
Wednesday morning, we visited with Dr. Krissanapong Kirtikara, deputy prime minister of education. He expressed serious interest in pursuing collaboration in STEM K-12 education, professional education and training and collaboration in studying water issues in Thailand. The meeting was facilitated by the good office of Mr. Uswachoke. We were also joined by Dr. Pornpun Waitayangkoon, president of the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching and Science and Technology. The opportunities are significant for all of us.
Mr. Kan Trakulhoon (MS MGT ’86, MS MATE ’86), President and CEO of Siam Cement (SCG) hosted us at his offices for a wonderful lunch that included other corporate leadership and several young Georgia Tech graduates. SCG is a $15 billion dollar a year corporation involved in cement, chemicals, building materials and packaging (largely corrugated paper). With some 300 subsidiaries, SCG is a powerhouse in the ASEAN market, and making inroads in the North American market. We discussed the many common themes between SCG and Georgia Tech, and look forward to establishing collaborations.
The highlight of the visit has to be the evening alumni/ae and students’ reception Wednesday evening. The attendees ranged from Dr. Pakorn Adulbhan (PhD IsYE, ’68), president of the Royal Society of Thailand, to several 2014 graduates (some 70 of them). This was an energetic and inspiring group in more ways than one. First the camaraderie, honest love of Georgia Tech and excitement at this first attempt to bring together the 400 strong alumni/ae was palpable. They have been waiting for this moment for so long.
Second, the large presence and leadership of women in the group impressed me. Everywhere we went women were playing leadership roles. In particular, the young women professionals are leading in all aspects of professional life. Emblematic of the uniqueness and the “can do” attitude of this group of alumni/ae was the way that they organized themselves – old and young – using social media (Line). Now there are over 90 “connected” alumni/ae in Thailand – all in a matter of minutes. Impressive.
Let me end by saying that I have been taken by Thai society and people. I found a culture full of tradition, charmingly polite and friendly, extraordinarily outgoing and inclusive, and full energy and desire to enjoy life at its fullest. They openly express that quintessential human emotion – happiness followed by laughter.
- Rafael L. Bras