28 April 2016 was an inspiring night that the Thai-Swedish business community in Bangkok will remember for a long time to come, as the Guest Speaker for the occasion of the Annual General Meeting and Dinner Event of the Thai-Swedish Commerce (TSCC) was the well-known Thai personality Mr Mechai Viravaidya, known for his Cabbages and Condoms restaurants and the Ikea-supported, innovative (Ikano Foundation) Mechai Pattana Bamboo School project.
Preceding the dinner and his speech was the Annual General Meeting itself, which presented the Members with a slight net loss and very much a new chapter in the operations of the Chamber. The AGM attendants learned that work on a new strategy had commenced during the previous year, 2015, and an entirely new office team had been appointed, contributing to cutting down on fixed expenses while generating more income for the chamber onwards.
The strategy is developed within various working groups involving appointed Board of Governors, and advocacy work continues via EABC and the JFCCT (Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce Thailand) committees, as well as directly with the Thai government and agencies, including Board of Trade, Board of Investment, Thai Trade representatives, as well as ministries.
During 2015 TSCC held 25 events, which is less than the average. However TSCC spent considerable on its own rejuvenation of the management and team, and the overall strategy work. Among the events highlights were the 6 June National Day Dinner Party held at Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok, with 200+ guests attending and starring the Swedish stand-up comedian David Batra; the Swedish Traditional Christmas Luncheon at St. Regis Hotel; as well as a number of business breakfast meetings and luncheons.
TSCC will continue its operation with increased focus on membership benefits driven by coordinated calendar, member benefits, services and board work and member engagement.
The new all-Thai TSCC office team is lead by Executive Director Jiaraya Chanchon; where Napavorn Chinprayoon (Miu) is Administrative Officer, Chanunya Silapanuntakul (Kat) is Project Coordinator and Phatra Sedtanranon (Bring) is Project Assistant (as intern). TSCC had also acquired a new accountant and a new auditor was also proposed.
In 2015 TSSC saw a slight decrease in members, where corporate members increased while individual members decreased.
The Executive Director presented the AGM with the plan for the new membership drive; focusing on member benefits, sponsorship packages and possibilities, and online version of Thai Sweden Review (replacing the printed bi-annual magazine).
TSCC President Jan Eriksson presented the AGM with a forecast of “exponential increase in profit in 2016 compared to the 2015 loss,” with a budgeted profit of baht 250,000.
The AGM also elected 5 new members to the Board of Governors. These are: Anette Andersson (Volvo Cars Thailand), Birgitta Leveen Deckmar (Diakrit), Marcus Krusell (Krusell Group), Daniel Lingren (Rapid Asia), and Kamlarp Sirikittiwatn from Volvo Group. Furthermore, Roy Andersson and Thongchai Watanasoponwong were elected as new Advisors.
The new Board then re-elected Mr Jan Eriksson as President.
Then the highlight of the Thai-Swedish AGM followed, as it was time for the dinner, with a Swedish-oriented menu by Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit’s magnificent chefs. This consisted in: Gravlax green bouquet, capet, dill crème; Baked barramundi ‘Aqua Paza’ Venetian Style, wilted spinach, scallion mashed potato as main course, followed by Ostkaka Swedish cheese cake, berry ice cream as dessert.
And it was, aside the superb food, a very inspiring night where the honourable guest speaker Mechai Viravaidya stroke the right note and touched the guests’ hearts at the core by demonstrating the for Thailand spearheading efforts and the splendid things achieved as a result, where so much else is left to answer for by Thailand’s own governance. For instance, the former minister and politician Mechai Viravaidya does not hesitate to criticize his country’s failure when it comes to the educational system in Thailand (its poor state highlighted in his speech to the TSCC members).
For those who are not familiar with this philanthropist and founder of Mechai Viravaidya Foundation’s background he is most known for his activism and pioneering work in family planning and HIV/AIDS awareness/prevention. He also goes under the nickname of “Mr Condom” as a result of his efforts to promote sexual-safety awareness.
Furthermore he has taken a hands-on improvement of Thailand’s education, in particular to help those who are poor and stateless within the country.
In his presentation Mechai showcased the Bamboo School project, what the project is doing to address education shortcomings, and what it has accomplished for those who have benefited so far from this lifelong learning centre for the students and the entire community.
The school’s focus on self-improvement and self-sufficiency is adapted to local environment and current technology. It develops the complete individual by focusing on developing the complete individual – instilling individual morality, preserving community tradition, and promoting good citizenship. The school also runs a Village Development Partnership, which addresses the five vital components of development: community empowerment, income generation, health, education, and environmental promotion.
Meachai had brought some students with him to meet the TSCC members and interact. After the speech the dinner guests seemed genuinely moved and President Jan Eriksson was struggling for words as he tried to sum up this immediate appreciation for Mechai’s efforts, praising his goodness and beyond-charity efforts. The conversations then continued late into the night.