Senator Sutham Phanthusak

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(28 August 1947 – 18 May 2016)

Former Senator Sutham Phanthusak, one of Pattaya’s most respected entrepreneurs died peacefully at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok on May 18 after battling a lung infection. He was 69 years old. Sutham is survived by his wife Orawan and three daughters Darin, Alisa and Varassaya, and one grandson, Jirakitti Phanthusak Kaenkaew.

Sutham was known to some as a successful hotelier with Woodlands Hotel & Resort, to others he was the creator of the world famous Tiffany theatre; he was also a devoted Scout, a Rotarian, and a Senator, but perhaps most of all, he will be best remembered as modest man and a man who loved Pattaya and the Kingdom of Thailand.

Former Senator Sutham Phanthusak, one of Pattaya’s most respected entrepreneurs died peacefully at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok on May 18 after battling a lung infection. He was 69 years old. Sutham is survived by his wife Orawan and three daughters Darin, Alisa and Varassaya, and one grandson, Jirakitti Phanthusak Kaenkaew.

Despite these grand achievements, he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, in fact he came from very humble beginnings. He was born in 1947 in Trang, Southern Thailand. His father was a simple rubber farmer, toiling in the plantations while his mother stayed at home to look after Sutham and his five sisters.

He left school when he was 16 years old, and moved to Bangkok where he entered the hospitality industry on the very bottom rung of the ladder as an assistant night auditor. However, soon after, he moved to Pattaya as a cashier in a hotel, then onto the Royal Cliff Beach Resort to be the assistant manager of administration and personnel. He was by then 22 years old.

Sutham Phanthusak 28 August 1947 –18 May 2016

After another three years he was snapped up by the Holiday Inn chain to be the personnel director at their Pattaya property, in charge of 300 staff. By this time it was obvious he was a man with a rare talent and vision.

After Sutham married Orawan, he noticed a niche in the market for tourists to exchange their holiday money, as there were no commercial banks in Pattaya. Sutham’s said he wanted to, “carry out business in a manner fair to all concerned,” so he and Orawan opened a currency exchange. It was a huge success and became the first exchange to be licensed by the Bank of Thailand.

On the back of this success he moved into the real estate market and after some time he was approached by a small company called Tiffany’s Show. They had a tiny theatre with 10 actors in South Pattaya, but it was going nowhere. He was asked to become involved in the business, which he did, building it up from 10 actors to its current level of over 100, with a similar number of staff. Tiffany’s Show is now the largest theatre in SE Asia.

He then returned to the hotel business but this time as the owner, not as an employee. His Woodlands Resort proved to be very successful and in time went on to be expanded to include Woodlands Suites, La Baguette and La Ferme.

In 2009 His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented a token of friendship and appreciation to Sutham Phanthusak for his dedication to the World Scout movement.

With all his business interests in place he began to look at child development. He said the Scouting movement was very useful in developing discipline and ethics in young children – important qualities for youths to have, especially in developing countries.

HM Queen Silvia of Sweden (Center, left) receives a painting of her and her husband HM King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, from the Phanthusak family (L to R) Darin, Varassaya, Sutham, Orawan and Alisa.

To that end he swung behind the World Scouting Organization, eventually becoming the International Commissioner of the National Scout Organization of Thailand (NSOT). His efforts were noticed, and rewarded by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, as well as by King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden. Sutham, who wore his Scout uniform with deserved pride, brought a patrol of Blind Scouts to attend the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden Under the Royal patronage of H.M. King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden (2011), and a patrol of Scouts with Disabilities and Special Needs to attend the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Japan, Under the Royal Patronage of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, and sponsored by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden (2015).

Members of the Thai Hotel Association Eastern Chapter hold a moment of silence during their AGM to remember a great man and to mourn the sad occasion of his passing.

Whilst the Scouting movement took up much time of his time, he never shirked from public duty. He was appointed by the Ministry of the Interior as a city councilor, serving 12 years. He was also retained by a former Thai PM as an advisor, as well as being asked to be a member of the Education Development Foundation. He joined the Rotary International movement, serving two terms as the President of the Rotary Club of Pattaya and as a member of the Rotary Club of Jomtien Pattaya.

In 2011 Sutham was appointed to the Senate, acting as one of the 150 senators who are involved in the ‘checks and balances’ of the political system here until 2014.  As a senator, Sutham was on several committees, including the standing committees on Education, on Energy, and on Religion, Morals, Ethics, Arts and Culture.

In 2011 Jan Olav Aamlid (left), Dr Iain Corness (2nd left), Pratheep Malhotra (2nd right), and Suwanthep Malhotra (right) congratulate Sutham on being appointed as a Senator.

In 2014, Sutham was appointed as a member of the National Legislative Assembly, a position he held until the end.  He was also quite proud of the fact he was chairman of Thai-Swedish Parliamentary Friendship Group and managed to launch a number of visits to the Parliament of Sweden in order to further strengthen the relationship between both parliaments.

News of his passing last week brought condolences from many sectors in Thailand with the president of the National Assembly Pornpetch Wichitcholchai visiting the temple in Bangkok where ceremonial rites are being held.

HM King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden presents a commemorative pin to Sutham at a function in 2011 celebrating the 100th anniversary of Scouts in Thailand.

On May 19, members of the Thai Hotel Association Eastern Chapter (THA-EC) held a moment of silence during their AGM to mourn this sad occasion. Chapter president Sanphet Suphabuansathien noted that Sutham was one of the major founders of Pattaya City, and one of the most respected men here. A former president of the THA-EC, Sutham was known as a mentor to many, and one of the first successful businessmen in Thailand.