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News & Analysis

From Arizona to Bangkok, Determined to Help Thailand

By Jutta Wolf

BERLIN | BANGKOK (IDN) - There is something exceptional about Dr. Thanawan Bhookphan who was born in Min Buri, one of the 50 districts of Bangkok, the capital city of Bangkok, and spent over 30 years in the United States.

He received Mechanical Engineering Degree from the University of Arizona, and Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the Faculty of Industrial Engineering – and gained expertise in several fields of engineering and international business management.

As a university student, he worked with many big and reputed companies as an apprentice. After graduation, he joined Motorola USA and worked in the engineering section, which supports the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), contributing his share to the success of Apollo 14 and 15 lunar missions.

"During many years in Motorola, the professional experience I gained, offered me the opportunity to work on various projects that significantly developed my operational skills, efficiency and responsibility," says Dr. Thanawan. He was also a member of the team of engineers who designed some of the most important components, such as the landing system of Apollo Lunar Module. Later he designed the Mockup for the Space Shuttle, Radar, Satellite and Amplifier Circuit for the Mobile Phone Chip. 

"After gaining ample and valuable experience, I decided to return to Thailand, use my knowledge and dedicate my efforts to develop my Motherland," thus helping realize late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's "development" projects, says Dr. Thanawan.

These included Initiative Projects, such as the Artificial Rainmaking and Telecommunications and most recently Waste to Energy, and Green Technology related developments including Solar Energy.

King Bhumibol had initiated 'The Thailand Royal Rainmaking Project', or cloud seeding, in November 1955 in order to decrease the suffering of Thai farmers, caused by the effects of recurring drought. Over 82 percent of Thai agricultural land relied on rainfall. Thai farmers were not able to grow crops for lack of water.

The royal rainmaking project had its debut on July 20, 1969, when the first rainmaking attempt was made at Khao Yai National Park. Dry ice flakes were scattered over clouds. Some rainfall resulted.

In 1971, the government established the Artificial Rainmaking Research and Development Project within the Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Parts of Thailand's capital could be underwater by 2030 unless the government takes steps to prevent disaster, say experts

Related to that is the Thailand Water Management Project, including artificial rainmaking and erecting sea barriers. Bangkok is at the risk of sinking into the sea. As the British Guardian reported, "Parts of Thailand's capital could be underwater by 2030 unless the government takes steps to prevent disaster, say experts."

Against this backdrop, the 'Thanawan Bhookphan Relief Foundation' was set up to support the Thai Red Cross, whenever floods occurred in Thailand.

Dr. Thanawan and his team have also been contributing to the success of the Northern Area agricultural project and the King's initiative for cold water fruit plantation as part of the efforts dedicated to reduce poverty in Thailand with the help of relevant technologies.

Dr. Thanawan is also working as a Consultant to several government agencies and private organizations, such as UNOCAL (Chevron). In addition, he has been making efforts to develop the telecommunication system in Thailand. In anticipation of changing and streamlining the telecommunication system in Thailand, he has established the Rungakeraya Engineering Company Limited, RA, to operate in this field.

"Our main objective is to construct the base stations for Wireless Networks," explains Dr. Thanawan. "Safety, efficiency, quality, accuracy, punctuality and the know-how in technology are the most important criteria of the company's operations, both locally and internationally.

"In addition, the company helps continuously develop the skills and capabilities of all our staff through training and seminars in technical operations and new technologies, to energize and generate excellent quality of work," says Dr. Thanawan.

"We consider our human resources as our greatest of assets and value them as our most precious business partners and it is with their unstinted co-operation, that we give support to the Unlimited Development in the world of telecommunication. We ensure high standards in quality control, which always contributes to the satisfaction of our customers and which is predominantly attuned to our company policies," adds Dr. Thanawan.

Dr. Thanawan and his team are working on several other projects such as the coal project in Myanmar, the construction of biomass power generation to address environmental problems, also by introducing other advanced technologies. The plan is to build the 2,000 MW coal fired power plant, construct industrial waste disposal facilities and tackle garbage with the use of plasma.

"In order to reduce the Municipality Solid Waste (MSW), we are going to introduce the plasma electric generating plant, and relocate factories in special economic zones, with a view to building a sustainable city," says Dr, Thanawan.

His commitment to development needs be viewed against the backdrop of late King Bhumibol keeping his promise in the 70 years of his rule – the promise that he would reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people. Also King Maha Vajiralongkorn's development projects seek to take that into account that promise.

A part of that is his 'Sufficiency Economics' theory, based on Buddhist principles to help alleviate the suffering of his people, King Bhumibol developed when Thailand suffered its worst economic crisis in living memory, in 1997.

As of 1998, there were 2,159 royal development projects initiated by the King and implemented throughout the country.  Most of the projects are aimed at improving the living conditions of his subjects, particularly those in the remote rural areas.

In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which negatively impacted his country greatly, the King suggested a self-sufficient economy as a way to pull Thailand out of the economic crisis. The idea was that all Thais should live a life that leaves them with enough to eat, while relying on their own economy.

It was a tribute to Dr. Thanawan's unrelenting commitment to development that the DEVNET Japan Foundation, headed by Fumiyasu Akegawa, awarded him the prestigious 'Higashikuninomiya International Culture Award'. Both Akegawa and Dr. Thanawan are planning a series of significant joint projects in Southeast Asia. [IDN-InDepthNews – 29 November 2017]

Photo: Dr. Thanawan Bhookphan.

This article is part of IDN’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and DEVNET Japan.

IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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