The Vice President of the TEI Dr Chaiyod Bunyakitand welcomed the collection of concerned Phuket and Bangkok-based residents, environmental activists and experts in the field and showed the visitors around their facilities.
Present at the meeting were CSR Asia Representative Nicharat, John ‘Caveman’ Gray, Dr Paul Chamniern, Lister Hannah (senior partner Atkisson group), Dr Robert Mather from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Robert Steele (Director Sustainability Asia), and Nick Anthony and Sean Panton from SEEK Phuket.
Nick Anthony said, “We wanted to have a look at operations there and were pleased by what we saw. They’ve been environmental consultants for Thailand and Phuket for more than 20 years now, some projects have been successful, while others not so.”
Mr Anthony added that it was also an opportunity for the different community groups and stakeholders to look at each other’s ongoing projects in order to determine what was going well and what wasn’t.
Sean Panton said, “It was primarily to consolidate the environmental indicator workshops, like our recently introduced eco-workshops, evaluate the findings and discuss action plans in order to create a sustainability plan for Phuket.”
The meeting was for many attendees the first chance they had got to meet since a Crisis Management seminar held on the island in May. Mr Anthony said that although it was important to keep up the pace with regards to ensuring targets and aims are met, it was also important to remain patient and realistic about what, as representatives from the civil sector, they could do.
“When bringing about environmental change, we must be aware that the process of change in Thailand comes about slowly. Even with the best ideas, it cannot change without policy change which tends to occur slowly.”
He added that although Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor) representatives had become more active in helping with NGO-introduced initiatives like beach clean up events for example (see story to right), it was still very much a new, yet burgeoning relationship.
“We have to be rather realistic in what we can hope to achieve,” Mr Anthony said, “and find a balance between our ideals and what is manageable.”
How to actually achieve the manageable is also up for debate and careful consideration.
“In Phuket, we are currently wondering as to whether to carry on with the softly softly approach or try to stress that we are at crisis point.
“Sometimes in Phuket, that’s the best way changes are brought about, like the recent killing of Michelle Smith for example. This helped at least initiate talks on improved security on the island.
Mr Anthony admitted that although things were far from crisis point, they soon would be if Phuket carried on the track it is set for.