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No work as the Phuket waterpark takes shape at West Sands

Phuket Waterpark Halted by West Sands Blockade

Thursday, December 3, 2009
Blockade Photo Album Above

A BLOCKADE of the large West Sands property and resort development by local villagers continued today, without hope of a quick resolution.

The interruption to construction almost certainly means a delay to the December 20 opening of the villa and condo West Sands Resort and the Splash Jungle theme waterpark, which will be a feature of the property.

About 200 residents of the Mai Khao area in northern Phuket set up salas and road blocks on two access routes on Tuesday.

Talks aimed at a resolution of the crisis broke down yesterday, despite the involvement of Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob.

The governor serenaded the gathering with a soothing song over a loudspeaker, then sat down to arbitrate. A spokesperson and lawyer for West Sands, Uraiwan Poonsrikasem, put the case for an end to the blockade.

But the villagers remained adamant that West Sands had broken conditions of an agreement and opted to continue until the developers provide ''proper answers.''

Today the governor said the Head of the Thai Royal National Parks department had been asked to come to Phuket. But he will not arrive until next week.

Governor Wichai is concerned about a memorandum of understanding between West Sands and rangers from neighboring Sirinath National Park, signed in April.

However, the villagers have a different perspective to both the developers and the rangers and began their blockade on Tuesday after eight large, decades-old trees were cut down close to Mai Khao beach.

Phuketwan persuaded the blockaders to allow us through. We found just one or two workers on the waterpark site, although the various rides and slides are already taking shape. Work on several eight-storey condo blocks is also at a standstill.

At the southern edge of the property, we found several trees, freshly lopped. Traditional providers of shade, the trees had been felled on the beach side of a pedestrian pathway that runs along the coast.

The trees were directly in front of the foundations for what appears to be a large beach club.

We do not know whether the pathway defines the border of the beach, or whether the felled trees are included among the axed eight that aroused the villagers' anger.

Access to the beach by locals is the other major issue, with villagers claiming that West Sands has reneged on a promise to maintain the traditional route, without needing to pass security guards.

West Sands appears to have entered into an arrangement with the national park rangers in April, but the villagers have a different perspective.

At yesterday's meeting, it became plain that the governor, having listened to various speakers and heard verbal reports about various documentation, considers the anger of the villagers to be justified.

It appears that West Sands will need to pay closer attention to what the villagers are saying if they wish to end the dispute quickly.

Unlike later developments along Mai Khao beach, with a changed approach to environmental considerations, West Sands was granted permission to build virtually down to the edge of the sand.

Britain's Tesco chiefs Sir Terry Leahy and Paul Mercer head the project, which has won awards for its ''green'' design yet provoked accusations of a lack of sensitivity to the environment.

The southern edge of the property has Phuket International Airport as a neighbor.
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