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Fast-tracked to fame

Akanat Promphan can never forget about his family's stature, but he's quite busy enough maintaining his own.

The 23-year-old Oxford graduate has jumped into politics as a member of the Prime Minister's Office and secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

Akanat is the middle child of Srisakul Promphan and Porntep Techapaibul. After they divorced, his mother became Suthep's common-law wife.

Though he earned a master's degree in engineering, economics and management at Oxford, Akanat insists he's "not smart".

"But I am hard-working, patient and determined. When I decided to try and get into good universities, I set out to make good grades.

"I used to participate in all kinds of activities in high school, but in my last three years I stopped and focused only on my preparations for getting into Oxford."

He originally planned to do an internship in Britain after graduation, but decided instead to help his mother's condominium business in Lat Phrao.

Within a few months the chance arose for him to join the inner ring of politics, and being in politics had been his dream since his early teens, when he pored over newspapers and discussed issues with his mother.

"As secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep, I look after his schedule," Akanat says. "He teaches young people like me, showing us how 'real' the work is. I attend the meetings and see how the decisions are put into practice.

"Suthep is very serious about his work. He's a good example for the younger generation."

Asked whether he got the job because of his connections, Akanat insists that everyone has the same opportunity, although some are better positioned.

 Regardless, he says, he'll do his best in the job, and hopes people will judge him on his merits.

It's not a difficult job, Akanat says, but he struggles with Thai grammar, his years of overseas study leaving him unfamiliar with writing in Thai.

He declines to assess his work, though, saying that's up to his superiors.

"But if you ask me how serious I am in my work, I put 100 per cent into it."

Akanat studied at Saint Gabriel's College in Bangkok until he was 10, then continued in Australia, alongside his brother.

At the time he understood English but couldn't speak the language. His youth, though, made adjusting to different cultures easy.

More adjustment was needed when he enrolled in high school in Britain.

"Going there was the most important decision of my life," he says. "I really wanted to go Oxford."

Asked what he's learned from politics, Akanat says history teaches politicians to work in the country's interest and give priority to people's needs, rather than their own.

He hasn't planned his next career move, preferring to stay focused on his current job. He's so dedicated to it, he says, there's little time left for anything else.

"I haven't decided about my future yet - whether I'll be a politician or a businessman. It depends on timing and opportunity."

Politics does hold a special allure for him, however.

Akanat's great desire at the moment is to see Thai politics stabilised.

"Political instability is what's held Thailand back, although its natural resources are no less abundant than in neighbouring countries," he notes.

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