4 Thais among Forbes Asia's 48 Heroes of Philanthropy
Boonchai Benjarongkul, Tan Passakornnatee, Bilaibhan Sampatisiri and Thongma Vijitpongpun are four Thais enlisted in Forbes Asia's 48 Heroes of Philanthropy.
Released today, Boonchai, founder of Cellphone Network and Total Access Communication, was honoured for his devotion in supporting education and culture since selling control of the company in 2005. This year, he plans to open the Thai Contemporary Art Museum in Bangkok, an US$8.4 million showcase for his collection of modern Thai painting, sculpture and miniatures that will be the nation’s largest privately funded museum.
Tan pledges half his net profit to his Tan Pan Foundation, which works to improve education, the environment and tourism. Gave $67,000 from his TV appearances with a standup comic for new buildings at Bor Thong Kindergarten in Chon Buri, his hometown. He also contributed to Japanese earthquake relief and raised more money via his restaurants and Facebook fan page for a total of $143,000.
Bilaibhan, chairperson of the family-owned Nai Lert Park Hotel, is helping lead efforts to conserve the nation’s fast-disappearing architectural heritage as president of the Siam Society. She also serves as president of a Thai fund involved in protecting wild elephants. Runs the Lert Sin Foundation, which supports health care and education and is funded from the legacy of her grandfather, who built real estate, retailing and transport businesses.
Thongma, CEO of Pruksa Real Estate, donated some $660,000 to hospitals, Buddhist organisations and schools in 2010 and 2011. A civil engineer by training, he’s channeled most of his education-related giving into the engineering field.
Forbes Asia enlisted 48 most remarkable givers from across Asia Pacific. From each of 12 jurisdictions, four are selected for their mark in philanthropy in innovative ways.
"The selections are subjective and we aimed for a mix of notable people and causes. We also try to identify new philanthropists each year and pick only true philanthropists who are giving their own money. If highlighting these 48 generous souls encourages more people to support worthy causes, then we will deem our project a big success," said John Koppisch, Senior Editor, Forbes Asia.
Education for the poor remains a strong theme for many of the philanthropists.
Among the most noteworthy donations is the $62 million that Hui Ka Yan, a Chinese property developer who started Evergrande Real Estate, gave to alleviate poverty and provide scholarships to more than 10,000 students.
Also making education his focus is Malaysia's Vincent Tan, who has stepped down
from an active role at the conglomerate he founded, the Berjaya Group, and now devotes
much of his time to his Better Malaysia Foundation. The Foundation is focused on the
improvement of the country's level of English.
Another big donor is Indonesia's Tahir, founder and chairman of the Mayapada Group. He has donated more than $50 million to universities in China, Indonesia, Singapore and the US, primarily in the form of scholarships. This year, he gave $24 million to the National University of Singapore for medical research.In the Philippines, Mercedes Zobel, daughter of former Ayala CEO Enrique Zobel, gives nearly $600,000 a year to education, health and arts projects.
In Hong Kong, Marjorie Yang's Esquel-Y.L. Yang Education Foundation has been funding the building or renovation Page 2 of 4 of more than 20 schools. The Esquel Group has also provided microfinance to 300 rural households in China's Xinjiang region.The Arts was a major area of focus among the list's honorees.
Taiwan's Shi Wen Long, founder of petrochemicals company Chimei Group, started the Chi Mei Culture Foundation, which runs Taiwan's largest private museum and the world's number one violin database. The museum houses his collection of 1,100 violins - the world's biggest by a nonviolin-maker or dealer. Visiting musicians and local students are free to borrow the violins.
Australia's David Walsh, who made millions from a gambling system to bet on horse
racing and other sports, spent $75 million building Hobart's architecturally stunning Museum of Old & New Art, or MONA. The museum displays his $100 million art collection and since opening in January last year, it has become one of Tasmania's top tourist attractions.
Conservation featured highly as a priority for some of the region's donors. South Korea's Son Chang-Geun, who owned and managed a 1,636-acre forest that had been part of the family estate for decades, donated the forest to the Korea Forest Service so it will remain in a natural state. He had 2 million trees planted there since 2006 and it is valued at $85 million.
Helping the rural pHelping the rural poor is another major cause. India's Rajashree Birla, mother of the chairman of Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Birla, oversees two family foundations and chairs the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives & Rural Development, the charitable arm of the commodities conglomerate. It has a presence in 3,000 villages and says it has helped 7 million people.
Singapore's banker turned entrepreneur, Christopher Wilson, cofounded Social Capital Venture, which in 2 years has installed clean-water systems in schools, health centers, hospitals, villages and orphanages in the impoverished Cambodian province of Kampong Chhnang. The venture may expand to India, Thailand and Indonesia.
In the past year, Asia has suffered from natural disasters and some of the region's tycoons have rallied to help the victims. Among them, Thailand's Tan Passakornnatee, founder and president of Ichitan Group, a restaurant and beverage business, gave $2.3 million, boats and bottled tea for flood relief. He also organized thousands of Facebook followers to package survivor-aid kits and made YouTube videos demonstrating how to make life jackets and rafts.
Japan's professional golf star, Ryo Ishikawa, the youngest of the philanthropists at age 20, donated all his earnings last year plus $1,000 for every birdie he scored, towards earthquake disaster relief. His contributions surpassed $1.6 million. He also donated to victims of Thailand's floods after playing in a tournament there in December.
Park Chan-Ho, a Korean major league baseball player who pitched for 7 teams in the U.S. and now for the Hanwha Eagles, also donated to support the development of youth baseball and improve the sport's infrastructure in South Korea.