Contribution Glory

Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul

Co-founder of G Steel Group and an IOC member
“Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul’s exceptional record of helping keep the Thai flag flying high internationally, coupled with her remarkable business prowess, arguably make her most deserving of the title “Woman of the Year 2023”.

Thailand's inspirational heroine

Khunying Patama is an influential figure who has chalked up outstanding success in business, sports, music and education. She has dedicated her life to serving the nation. In the past year alone, she has played an important role in creating myriad benefits for society.

In business, she has racked up achievements in various sectors including the steel, hospitality (hotels), healthcare (hospitals) and logistics industries. She also serves as co-founder of Asia Metal Plc, Chularat Hospital Plc, Leo Global Logistic Plc, Arnoma Hotels Group, G Steel Plc and GJ Steel Plc.

Khunying Patama is one of the major shareholders in G Steel Group, Thailand’s major producer of hot-rolled coil (HRC) steel products for automotive and general industrial applications.

With a combined capacity of 3 million tonnes a year, G Steel Group boasts the largest mills in Southeast Asia using Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) green steel technology. Following a recent investment by Nippon Steel Corporation (NSC), a world-class steel industry operator from Japan, G Steel Group has become part of the NSC and is now being professionally managed by the Japanese firm.

Khunying Patama is married to Somsak Leeswadtrakul, a business tycoon lauded in 1994 by Forbes China as the third richest ethnic-Chinese man in Thailand.

She is also a noted philanthropist who supports sports, music, culture, education and hospitals while paying special attention to helping those on the periphery of society.

She has donated around 450 million baht to various social causes. Last year, she gave 130 million baht: 52 million she donated along with Ladda Leeswadtrakul, to the Ramathibodhi Foundation, 30 million baht with Grace Leeswadtrakul to the Thai Red Cross Society, and another 48 million baht to various other social causes.

Khunying Patama was elected to join the International Olympic Committee (IOC), serving as chairwoman of the IOC Members Election Commission and IOC AGM at the 131st IOC session in Lima, Peru in 2017.

She became the first Thai woman and the fourth Thai national to hold such a position, after Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien, Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chulasapya, and Dr Nat Intrapana. Since becoming an IOC member, Khunying Patama has sought closer cooperation between the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NOCT), the Olympic Committee of Asia and the IOC.

Being elected as an IOC member was an opportunity for her to help Thailand make new friends among IOC members in various nations, opening a window for her to further promote the kingdom and help preserve its best interests.

In the first week of December 2021, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees, invited Khunying Patama to watch the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabia Grand Prix 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Introduced by Prince Abdulaziz, Khunying Patama enjoyed an audience with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Having gained an audience with the Saudi Crown Prince, Khunying Patama sought his help in restoring diplomatic relations with Thailand, which had lapsed for over 32 years. This freeze had set in despite relations between Thai and Saudi Arabian citizens being generally warm and positive.

Nobody knows how much of what Khunying Patama proposed to “MBS”, as he is known, influenced the government of Saudi Arabia. However, shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and a Thai diplomatic team were invited by the Saudi government to visit Riyadh on Jan 25-26, 2022 to discuss the restoration of diplomatic ties.

In terms of Khunying Patama’s influence in the field of sports, in October 2021 Thai sports were in turmoil following an announcement by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that Thailand, Indonesia and North Korea had violated its doping rules for athletes and stood to suffer serious penalties, with Thai sports teams and athletes set to be banned from international events.

The Thai national flag would not be allowed in competitions and Thailand would not be allowed to attend regional or international sports events.

The government and the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) tried to resolve these issues by amending various laws and regulations. Khunying Patama, as an IOC member, helped to coordinate these efforts to get WADA to remove Thailand from its non-compliance list as soon as possible. In February 2022, WADA duly announced that it had removed Thailand from the list, giving Thai sports the opportunity to recover their former glory.

Meanwhile, last November, many Thais were left feeling depressed at the prospect of not being able to watch the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar live on TV, as the games were about to begin and no broadcasting agreement had been reached. The problem was the cost of the rights: 1.6 billion baht. To resolve the issue, Khunying Patama contacted FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a fellow IOC member. Shortly afterwards, Thailand was able to close the deal at a reduced price of US$33 million, or 1.2 billion baht, bringing happiness to Thai football fans.

Last month, Khunying Patama was honoured by the Sports Reporters-Photographers Association of Thailand as its Person of Decade. For all these reasons and more, Khunying Patama is our Woman of the Year 2023.