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Time to wave the flag proudly for Thailand by cleaning up Phuket

Phuket 'Mini UN Summit' Offers Hope of Big Changes

Monday, August 16, 2010
News Analysis

PHUKET'S most important summit of expat community leaders is to be held in a week's time, with 22 nations invited to attend - and a special delegation being sent from the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok.

America, China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia are likely to join for the first time, with the German Ambassador to Thailand, Dr Hanns H. Schumacher, coming to Phuket for the gathering.

It's a genuine Phuket mini-United Nations, a chance for representatives who know and understand the problems experienced by expat residents and tourists to speak frankly, and to hear what the Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-ngob, has to say.

Representatives from Phuket police and the island's most important organisations will also have the opportunity to raise issues. About 18 groups and departments, headed by the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, will send representatives.

The third of the innovative quarterly meetings - they began earlier this year at the instigation of Governor Wichai and Dr Schumacher - will be by far the most important to date.

The summit follows a visit to Phuket by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, during which he talked to a group of honorary consuls and tourism spokespeople and took extensive notes about corruption on Phuket, as well as the island's other problems.

What Khun Kasit and other senior members of the government must realise is that ''Greater Phuket'' can't hope to be the winning bidder to hold the hugely significant World Expo in 2020 unless corruption is obliterated first.

This is also the main reason why Phuket cannot ever expect to become a Special Economic Zone - unless there are revolutionary changes beforehand. Declaration of Phuket as a Special Economic Zone with the island in the stranglehold of local authorities would simply entrench the existing corruption.

The presence of a large Foreign Ministry delegation at next Monday's summit is an indication that the national government realises what's wrong and is making preparations for a revolution on Phuket - especially if holding World Expo 2020 is the prize.

In November, the global International Anti-Corruption Conference meets in Bangkok. Unless there is some real sign before then that Thailand is fighting corruption, not just talking about doing it, Thailand may be viewed by some as an inappropriate host.

Tackle and obliterate corruption on Phuket, and the Thai Government gains a role model for the other 75 (soon to be 76) provinces. Phuket has all kinds of corruption, which is what makes it a great place to start.

The potential for these special mini-UN summits on Phuket to shed light on the big issues as well as dealing with purely Phuket problems is of vital importance to the future of Phuket. It's such a good idea that it should be adopted in other places where expats don't have any say.

For the first time, even the local Thai media, which usually shuns tourism and tourist issues, is showing greater interest. If more issues were explained in Thai to the Thai community, there would be greater support and understanding of Phuket's failings. The Thai community is more inclined to shrug their shoulders than the expats.

Yet both communities stand to benefit from a change in approach. Introduction of an efficient public transport system across the whole island is high on the priority list of most of the honorary consuls, partly because the greed of local tuk-tuk and taxi-drivers is one of the most obvious complaints by tourists, and by resort managers.

The idea has the governor's support. Everyone knows and understands the problem. Answers are harder to find - and they will never come unless the national government takes charge and declares the present village-by-village style management of the island to be obsolete.

Phuket's long-term problems, ignored or tolerated for decades, are now seriously impeding the island's progress as a global brand.

What's required is a situation where balance of the growing economic benefits of Phuket goes hand in hand with protection of the region's natural environmental treasures. That simply cannot happen while myopic local village leaders oversee the island's future.

Governor Wichai took many tessaban council leaders with him on a recent familiarisation tour to Nice and the French Mediterranean coast. It is to be hoped that some of them came back realising that big changes are required now if Phuket is to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

What happens on August 23 will provide a great guide as to whether the essential changes that Phuket requires are going to be tackled or put back in the pigeonhole.

Represented at the special Phuket summit will be the Governor, The Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, tourism officials, police and local department heads. Countries invited to send representatives are: Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Australia, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, US and Japan.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The other thing that would help somewhat is if people felt safe about stepping up and being honest with what they view as the problems. I think fear prevents honest discourse on so many levels.

A little 'accountability' and 'transparency' with how funds are utilised and where they are being funnelled would help somewhat too.

Posted by Gigi on August 16, 2010 10:26

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The on going concerts and very loud open -air activities across from JunkCeylon till 3 AM. Should be asked at the meeting "Why is it permitted?" It disrupts local residents and visitors at Millennium Hotel, with no restrictions. This should be discussed.

Posted by Optamist on August 16, 2010 14:19

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Plz spell Optimist correctly. Thank you!

Posted by Optimist on August 16, 2010 14:23

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GREAT IDEA...But will only work if someone from the Government has the gumption to deal with the main reason why Phuket is in this mess..

1 The Phuket Mafia...
2 Phuket Corruption...

Unless action rather than words, nothing will change,it's been like this for over 10 years..let's hope someone can make the changes...remember action...less promises please...

Posted by barka on August 17, 2010 09:31

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Optamist - If your goal is to sleep early why on Earth are you staying in Patong? Surely there are better places to stay for a peaceful holiday where you can get an early night?

Posted by Benjie on August 17, 2010 23:51

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People who move have found similar problems all over Phuket. Moving is not always a solution. Local authorities just need to enforce Thai Laws about noise restrictions.

Posted by Optamist on August 18, 2010 14:02

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Benjie...I, as well as many other people have been living in Patong for well over 10 years..and many of us work regular jobs..therefore have to go to bed at reasonable times in order to get up early...This music noise is only fairly recent...why should any of us have to move and why aren't they adhering to the laws regarding noise...Moreso...why aren't the laws even being enforced?..and like Optamist says..it's not only in Patong...it happens all over the island...Personally, I love music...but there needs to be a specific designated area that can accommodate these events without it being a disturbance to the people living there.

Posted by sky on August 18, 2010 18:10


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