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Anoma Vongyai

Khun Anoma, 44, is the director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Phuket.

Where are you from?
I’m from Phuket and I came back to Phuket this year, in March. I was working in Bangkok and Tokyo – where I lived and worked for four years. And yes, I do speak a little Japanese.

Tell us something about your work.
Well, the TAT is a destination marketing organisation – we promote Thailand and interestingly enough we also promote Phuket to the domestic market – it’s a very important market. In Tokyo, obviously, I promoted Thailand to the Japanese.

Is the Japanese market very big?
Yes, but more so in Bangkok than Phuket. In the past the Japanese were very important when it came to tourism in Thailand. Then recently they were something like the second or third biggest market when it came to overseas visitors; even last year the Japanese market was the fourth biggest for Thailand overall.

What is your latest project?
We have many, many projects! Next month we’re going to have a cycling event that comprises two parts. It’ll be held next door to the office in the park. We’ll have booths and a cycling workshop. Then we’re going to have a night ride in Phuket itself. The next day we’ll have another half-day ride that's separated into beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.

Where do you live in Phuket?
In Chalong, in my family’s house; a few of my family members don’t live here anymore. Even though we were born here some of us have chosen to move away. My mum lives in Bangkok nowadays, but they still come to visit us from time to time.

What kind of car do you drive and why?
To be honest, I don’t own one. I sold it when I moved away to Tokyo.

What do you like most about living in Phuket?
Maybe I’m living in the past because I tend to think of answering that question relating to when I was young, living and growing up in Phuket. I still like local, simple things such as small villages and the surrounding islands, and of course I love the local food such as khanom jin (rice vermicelli) for breakfast, along with dim sum and rotis.

What’s hardest or most frustrating thing about living here?
I think the most difficult thing is the traffic nowadays and there’s too much construction going on. It’s getting crowded here.

What do you think the future holds for you?
I’ll try to do my best for the TAT because actually I like to work for ‘non-business’ concerns. I like to be a public servant to try to make the place better and I think that working in a government job does just that – serving the people rather than working for ourselves.

In fact, if I could choose I’d like to have a simple life like a farmer. I’m still not sure if it’s just a dream because I have no experience in running a farm, in growing things and I know that it’s not easy. But it’s a simple life and that attracts me. Sometimes we can dream and if I’m honest I’d just like to lead a life in a small simple house.

How do you evaluate success?
Success is being happy. And I'm happy when I serve people to make this a better place.

What do you do with your free time, if you have any?
Oh, ever since coming here I don’t have a lot of free time! But actually I love reading. I feel happy when I read any kind of book.

Do you read in English?
Sometimes, but mainly in Thai; when I read in English I don’t always finish the book I’ve bought.

You've said that “Thailand’s biggest tourist draw is the kindness of Thai people” and that’s true. But sometimes visitors can't understand Thailand being a top international tourist destination yet have such poor English-speaking skills. What would you say to that?
I think this problem stems from the educational process in Thailand. I know that the government tries to improve standards but in daily life we use Thai and in the past the school curriculum focused on the Thai language, so we started studying English quite late in our education. Nowadays it’s different of course, but if you start learning the grammar of another language later on it’s very difficult.

What is a ‘quality tourist’?
Well, number one, we look for quality rather than quantity – but quality is not just about having money to spend, although that’s obviously welcome and for many people it’s the most important thing as they need the income. No, it’s more about people coming here and respecting our laws and culture.