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Paiboon Upatising: A tale of Phuket origins and legacy

PHUKET: This week hundreds of people turned out at the family home of Paiboon Upatising to mourn the death of the former Phuket Senator and Phuket’s highest elected official.

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By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Sunday 9 August 2015, 08:00AM


Mr Paiboon was pronounced dead at Thonburi Hospital, Bangkok, at 1:09am last Sunday (August 2), after his years-long fight against colorectal cancer. (See story here.)

At the family home this week, wreaths from politicians, organisations and churches lined the walls, marked with messages of condolences from Anchalee Vanich-Thepabutr and Rewat Areerob, who were both Phuket MPs until the May 22 coup last year, and from fellow Phuket clan, the Hongsyok family.

Also sending their condolences were Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup, the Phuket Hokkien Association and the Phuket Elderly Association.

Most wreaths were marked simply: “With Deep Sorrow.”

Among the wreaths were messages of condolences from the current Minister of Finance, Sommai Phasee, and Thai media magnates Prasan Maleenont, chairman of BEC-Tero Entertainment Co, which operates the Thai TV station Channel 3, and his brother Prawit. Maleenont. Forbes last listed the Maleenont family as 19th richest in Thailand, with assets valued at about B1.4 billion.

Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong and Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Pachara Boonyasit were among the distinguished mourners in attendance at the wake on Monday (August 3).

Paiboon Upatising was born on October 2, 1956, the grandson to a family of immigrants from China. A graduate from the Faculty of Engineering at the prestigious Chulaongkorn University in Bangkok, Mr Paiboon also held a master’s degree in management from Frostburg State College, in Maryland, United States.

He returned to Phuket, where his family began taking strides in their business endeavours, eventually developing the well-known Phuket Villa residential estates and securing the rights as the local distributor for Boonrawd Brewery, makers of Singha and Leo beer.

An active Rotary member, Mr Paiboon became one of the “founding fathers” and charter president of the Rotary Club of Patong Beach, the only English-speaking Rotary club on the island today.

“Mr Paiboon was an unstinting supporter of our club. His vision to encourage more interaction between the Phuket business community and local Thai officials led to our club’s establishment in 2001. Without his drive and vision it may not have happened,” said current Club President Walter Wyler.

“Our club members will always remember Mr Paiboon as someone who upheld the ideals of Rotary through his actions and his legacy. We will be forever grateful for his vision and support.”

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Meetings are still held at the Aloha Villa Hotel in Patong, which the Upatising family owns.

Mr Paiboon entered national politics at the turn of the century, winning the provincial election to serve as Senator for Phuket from March 4, 2000 – a post he held until July 27, 2006. On September 19 that year, the Army staged a coup to oust then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Paiboon returned to Phuket and became president of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (PPAO, or OrBorJor) in April 2008 in a surprise result against incumbent Democrat Anchalee Vanich-Thepabutra.

In his time in office, Mr Paiboon gained a reputation as a “man of the people”. He received a national award for launching the pink po thong bus service, and saw the musical fountain installed at Saphan Hin in order to bring more tourists to the area.

He also provided the momentum to see the PPAO administrated “Phuket Provincial Hospital” in Rassada become a reality, after years of government hospital directors complaining that they were underfunded and understaffed.

Ironically, the government hospitals were under-resourced as a result of the national budget allocation system, which allocates funds to provinces according to the number of people registered as living in a province, not according to the number of people living there.

For Phuket hospitals, that meant receiving funding commensurate for serving a registered population of about 300,000, not for the estimated one million living on the island, not including the millions of tourists who visit each year.

Mr Paiboon remained in office as PPAO president until June 25, when he was suspended from office without pay pending an investigation by the NACC into alleged corruption involving the Provincial Hospital in Rassada.

Mr Paiboon was not alone in his suspension. The national Council for Peace and Order used the renowned Section 44 of the interim constitution to summarily suspend the presidents of Provincial Administration Organizations in seven provinces under the same conditions.

Paiboon Upatising is survived by his wife, Ms Keawta, and their daughter Peerati Upatising and their three sons Pongsapak, Wutthichai and Maetapong, who as the eldest child now heads the Phuket Villa Group of companies as Managing Director.

The Phuket Villa Group has 10 completed residential and commercial property developments already in its portfolio, and a further seven projects currently underway.

 

 

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