Paul Thomas's first trip to Asia was in 1973, a private visit with some friends. Although he did not then decide to open his own open there, “since that time I have always been thinking to go to Asia to work there,” he says.
Today Thomas runs his own logistics company, Thomas International Services, covering sea freight, air freight, import and export, all sorts of local and international logistics, after having spent the last 30 years in Southeast Asia.
Thomas was born in the western part of Germany. After school he joined the navy for eight years, providing him a military and logistics background “because what I did in the navy was also logistics,” he says.
After the navy he first started working for a commercial company in northern Germany but in 1982 he got a job for a German logistic company in Singapore. The company only handled exports from Europe in relation to the Ministry of Defense in Indonesia.
“Quite an exciting time from 1982 to 1985 in Singapore,” Thomas says.
From 1985 he worked independently in Singapore. After his first trip to Cambodia in 1996, he came back in 1999 and opened a logistic company. “Subsequently Singapore became less important for me,” he says. “Cambodia became more important, also for my personal life because I have a Cambodian family here.”
Initially, the company was involved in a speciality, which was museum logistics.
“Museum logistics means the packing and transport of sculptures and artefacts,” Thomas says.
Thomas carried out a few projects for the Cambodia's National Museum. In 2006 the biggest exhibition that ever left Cambodia for Germany, was handled by Thomas company in combination with a German partner.
“And out of that, since 2006, we have been involved in these kinds of activities,” he says. “So Thomas was actually set up to take care only of the museum logistics.”
In 2010 they consolidated all the activities under Thomas International Services. Thomas says he would like to see more German companies coming into Cambodia.
“I am not talking about the textile industry and shoes industry, I am talking about alternative manufacturing,” he says. “I still think that Cambodia has a big potential for alternative manufacturing.”
Thomas was already in Southeast Asia on the day of the German reunification. He says at that time he was in Singapore, trying to build his own environment, his own company.
“And you are somehow detached from the action which took place in Germany at that time,” he says. “And you are just reading some newspapers and seeing something in the news but you are not really into it.”
He says for him personally, although October 3rd has an importance, he prefers the 17th of June 1953, the date of an East German uprising. Thomas has his centre of his life in Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia.
“There is no way of going back to Germany, for retirement or whatever, for sure not,” he says.