GREAT STORIES OF THE PAST: THE KING’S PROUD HELPER
Sompol Panmanee, secretary-general of the Royal Development Projects Board, brings excellence and devotion to his work to help achieve King Bhumipol’s visions for the people.
By Maxmilian Wechsler
“Behind every Royal Development Project lies His Majesty’s sufficiency economy philosophy, which calls for reason, moderation and self-immunity,” states Sompol Panmanee from the outset.
“According to His Majesty, the development process should give importance to moderation – exercising reason, smoothness and flexibility, as well as caution. I have always followed His Majesty's teachings on sufficiency economy.”
Sompol not only instructs and advises others about the sufficiency economy, but he also strictly abides by and pursues its principles, both on the job and in his private life. Looking around his office, located at the compound of the Office of the Prime Minister in Bangkok, you won’t see expensive decorations – only what is essential to perform his duties.
“His Majesty is a multi-talented person who thinks systematically, studies everything for a long time and is very thorough until he gets the result,” said Sompol.
He described the origins and functions of the RDPB and the ORDPB thus: “The Royal Thai Government recognised the importance and benefits of the RDPs in supporting and promoting the country's development, based upon the approaches outlined by His Majesty, and set up the RDPB as a special body in 1981.
“The board, with the prime minister as the chairman, is responsible for supervising the operation of the projects undertaken by the concerned government agencies.”
Sompol said that the RDPB acts as a central agency, with the primary functions of analysing and coordinating the planning and implementation of the projects with various official agencies. The organisation is also responsible for the implementation of RDPs initiated by other members of the Royal Family.
Sompol affirmed that His Majesty takes a personal interest in his subjects. “Recently, one farmer who was unable to get assistance from the concerned government agencies wrote to His Majesty requesting help with a project that could bring water from a nearby river to his farm, which had insufficient water for agricultural purposes. His Majesty then directed the request to the Irrigation Department and also directed the RDPB to address this particular problem.
“My father was an officer at the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture is in my blood. I chose this career instead of doing business because being a government official is my way of showing gratitude to the country,” said Sompol, adding that the aim of a government agency should be not to make a profit but to help the people.
Sompol pointed out that people of any occupation can help the country in one way or another, but he feels especially proud to be working to promote His Majesty’s projects because they make such a difference in the lives of so many people.
“At the end of each day I feel proud to be playing a part in the development of the country. Working for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the highest reward of my life.
“On several occasions when His Majesty visited people in the rural areas,” he continued, “I have had the great privilege and honour to accompany him, along with others. To walk along with the King is something very hard to describe. It is always a highly emotional event for me.”
Sompol explained that his duties are to push forward and implement the Royal Development Projects (RDPs) according to the royal initiatives and to support the work of the Office of the Royal Development Projects Board (ORDPB). This includes supervising
all the officials and agencies concerned in the implementation of all RDPs throughout the kingdom. Approximately 200 persons are employed directly by the RDPB.
Despite his top position at the RDPB, and a role as a member of the National Legislative Assembly, Sompol is a notably humble person. He possesses a comprehensive knowledge of many subjects, of which agriculture is his favourite.
“He sets an example for everyone and has our respect and trust,” said an official attached to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary. Other staff members remarked: “He is very efficient and diligent. He looks after his staff well and always gives suggestions and advice,” said one. Another added: “He is a kind and open-minded person with a strong personality. He is a pillar and example to us.”
The atmosphere in the RDPB offices was extremely friendly, and the morale obvious. “We’re like a close family, working for His Majesty the King,” said a staff member proudly.
In recognition of Sompol's work, His Majesty bestowed on him the royal decoration of the Knight Grand Commander (Second Class, higher grade) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao, on Coronation Day, May 5, 2007.