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Some of the local audience at the DSI meeting

Phuket Local Communities Criticise Developers

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
LOCAL communities on Phuket are deeply concerned by the island's increasing environmental problems, a large public meeting heard yesterday.

Attempts to privatise public beaches, yacht marinas, mangrove destruction, waste discharge from resorts and projects like ''Monkey Island,'' were all highlighted as serious issues.

About 120 people, representing virtually all island local communities and several government bodies, took advantage of a public meeting, called by the Department of Special Investigations, to air their grievances.

The seminar, said DSI Director General Tawee Sodsong, was a clear indication that development on Phuket required more intense control and cooperation between everyone affected.

Marine biologist Dr Nalinee Thongtham said that coral reefs around Phuket were being damaged by the run-off from developments into the sea.

In the future, if this continued, the reefs would be killed, she said.

Vice Governor Smith Palawatvichai said that Phuket needed to be rapidly upgraded to the special autonomous region status enjoyed by Pattaya to resolve its growing problems.

Among the communities represented at the meeting were Rawai, Chalong, Baan Kuku, Pak Lok and the Cape Yamu area, Baan Ku, part of Koh Kaew, Chern Talay, Bang Tao, Nai Yang, Koh Sireh, King Kaew and San Suk.

Rawai: The local people complained about an unnamed 74-room hotel that wanted to use a public beach only for their guests.

Chalong: The 'Monkey Island' project on Koh Tanan and Koh Aew was considered to be likely to damage the surrounding ocean and affect local fishing. People were also concerned about health problems from the monkeys. The effect on coral reefs of more boat traffic and a pier had yet to be assessed.

Baan Kuku: A private group had damaged mangroves to develop a project. Locals appealed to a non-government group and the mangroves were saved.

Pak Lok: Damage to mangroves had taken place in an era designated as the village home for the elderly. Complaints had been made to the previous governor.

Yamu: The Yamu marina project was not considered necessary by locals. A road proposed by the resort developers was unnecessary because the present route was suitable for their needs, locals said.

Bann Ku: The locals complained of damage to mangroves in the area by developers.

Cheng Thalay, Nai Yang: Big resorts were discharging waste into the sea, the local group said.

Koh Sireh, King Kaew, San Suk: A project to build the Reaun Dusit White Beach Resort was something locals did not need or want, the seminar heard. It would damage local fishing, they said.

Director of the Tax Audit Bureau, Wanee Tassanamonthen, said that big private development groups were avoiding tax on Phuket. Her department was often faced with difficulties in collecting the taxes due.

The Director General of Public Projects for Administrative Cases, Nisit Rabeabtham, said local communities on Phuket had had a better chance to have their complaints recognised since the Administrative Court opened on Phuket.

The meeting was held at Royal Phuket City Hotel.

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