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Phuket closing times and zoning: no longer an open and shut case

Phuket Open Until 5am? Debate Lights Up Inequality

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Today's Updating Report

PATONG'S nightlife will open until 5am and Phuket City's will go until 3am if the consensus reached yesterday at a big meeting on entertainment zoning on Phuket prevails.

The spotlight now shines on Phuket regulations dating back five years. The regulations appear to allow these hours to be legally acceptable. However the question remains whether Thailand's one law for all philosophy can be bent to embrace late drinking only for international passport holders.

Enforcement also became a big issue yesterday, with many of the audience at the Merlin Phuket Hotel in Phuket City pricking up their ears at the mention of corruption.

Chairing the meeting were Vice Governor Niwit Aroonrat and Major General Pekad Tantipong, Chief of Police on Phuket. Khun Niwit handed over to Major General Pekad to attend another meeting, saying that the aim was to establish an entertainment zone in Patong first, and then possibly create other zones as required elsewhere on Phuket.

Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob, who would like the situation to change, recognises that international visitors are used to drinking laws that run later than Thailand's 1am closing time and would like Phuket, as an international destination, to cater to the international audience.

Venue owner and Patong Municipality Council member Weerawit Kuresombut made the point that holidaymakers who enjoy nightlife usually eat late then move on to Phuket's night spots after 10pm.

To close just three hours later meant severely limiting the island's appeal for those who are used to 24-hour licencing laws in other countries.

''If you close suddenly at 1am or 2am, some of these people will end up drinking outside the 7-Eleven store or down on the beach in the dark,'' he said. ''What about crime? How can it be controlled?''

In 2006, Khun Weerawit said, he took a poll of tourists that indicated that tourists came to Patong knowing that the 1am or 2am closing laws were not being enforced, and that they could expect to drink to 4am.

''You can't do it just for overseas visitors, though,'' he said. ''People come from Bangkok and you can hardly expect to treat them, or locals, differently to other visitors.''

Assistant F&B manager Saijai Nuchai from JW Marriott said to have one law for visitors and another for Thais would make the role for staff at late-night venues extremely difficult. ''How far will these venues be from hospitals and temples?'' she asked. ''A lot of important aspects need to be considered.''

Phuket Tourist Association Vice President Sarayuth Mallam said that only 30 percent of tourists to Phuket visited Phuket's bars, so zoning needed to be very specific and avoid residential areas.

''Allow venues to open in the wrong areas and hundreds of people will be unable to sleep,'' he said. Addressing Khun Weerawit, he said: ''You have to take care of the local people who elected you as well, not just look to how to maximise the deal with tourists.

''Think about the future,'' Khun Sarayuth said. ''Do we really want drunks leaving venues just as monks are beginning to walk the streets, asking for alms? Will school children see these people falling about?

''The question of closing hours needs to take account of Thai culture and the normal daily lives of Thai people.''

He said the zoning regulations needed to be grounded in reality, not simply in the profit-taking potential.

Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit, superintendent of Phuket City police station, said that a new approach was needed to tourism that ended the cycle of tourists coming from, say, Korea on a Korean airline, and only spending at Korean owned shops.

''They come to Phuket for its special qualities, but leave nothing here,'' he said. ''If we don't have zoning, crime and drugs are harder to control and eradicate. The big picture needs a reassessment.

''When they go home, what do we have in return? People say they want big numbers of tourists, but what about quality? It is not easy to to improve the quality.

''I don't know whether Dr Prab ['Prab' Keesin, who has Patong interests] will agree with me or not. For example in Phuket City, locals have communities that open shops early in the morning. If other people open late, that will cause confusion. Local communities need to be protected, too.''

He said that if everything was run according to the law, there would be no need for corruption.

The manager of the Icon Club in Rawai* See the clarification below said they were happy to pay taxes, but would really like to see the money put back into infrastructure. Too much money was asked in under-the-table payments, she said.

She also suggested a ''one-stop service'' so that corruption could be better organised.

Major General Pekad thanked her for the comment. ''Only a few bad police take money in that way,'' he said.

She added: ''Yesterday customers at my club said how beautiful Nai Harn used to be years ago, but now there are drug needles for people to step on. We picked up 25 yesterday.

''People don't want to jog or walk. Many people have been attacked. What are the police doing?''

She couldn't see any reason why Phuket could not open 24 hours, around the clock, like Spain or France.

Phuket Tourist Association Vice President Sarayuth Mallam responded: ''Let's not talk about other countries, or even other provinces. You should think about whether that idea would benefit everybody.

''We need to support tourism but we don't want to destroy the local culture or the local way of life.''

Colonel Wanchai said some thought should go into a ''Phuket model.'' Local people could be involved in the decision-making process and have their voices heard. ''The whole issue needs to be properly discussed on the island, not simply left to Bangkok to make the decision for people here.''

Zoning was reviewed five years ago under the Thaksin government, when each province had to opt to decide to zone or not, the meeting heard. Phuket decided then to zone - but had done nothing about it. Because Phuket opted in back then, though, the Vice Governor said, the opportunity still existed for zoning to go ahead without further regulation.

Khun Prab told Phuketwan outside the meeting that there were about 700 bars and other venues in Patong, and he estimated only about 200 were legal. Asked why prices were so high for all products in Patong, he said it was sometimes the case that businesses had a high number of ''partners'' who took a share or the business.

In one business, there could be as many as 14 behind-the-scenes ''partners'' who had not invested, but never-the-less would take a regular contribution from the income. It was not unusual for eight or nine ''partners'' to come every month asking for money.

The ''partners'' consisted not just of police but from every kind of local official. Under-the-table payments were greatest in the copy-sale industry, he said.
Phuket Entertainment Zoning: Clarifying Who Said What
We Were Wrong Phuketwan named the female manager of Icon as a speaker at an entertainment zone meeting. Here's a correction, and a full account of what was said.
Phuket Entertainment Zoning: Clarifying Who Said What

Comments

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Good for Khun Sarayuth for speaking up on behalf of those of us in the residential areas needing to sleep...I have no problem with the Bangla area staying open late...but keep it down there..as a resident of Nanai rd...I am tired of the ongoing bar music, concerts and drunken singing that goes on opposite Carrefour every night....In my heart, I don't expect it to go away and believe that the so called "corruption" card will play out and win...but maybe as a long shot it will... fingers crossed

Posted by fingers crossed on September 9, 2010 16:00

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Funny - I've never seen any Patong nitespots closing at 1am - we must be on Isaan Standard Time!!

Posted by Mister Ree on September 9, 2010 23:20

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As Icon and Laguna in Rawai have it with sound proof walls/doors so they do not disturb sleeping people close by is the only right way to support those clubs to open to 5am, I can't understand why open bars that plays too loud should be allowed to be open later than 1am to really show people that if you don't disturb people, you are allowed to be open to 5am. People would follow the rules if they want to have an bar open to 5am. The only right way imho.

Posted by Anders on September 10, 2010 00:09

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The manager of Icon at Nai Harn don't says that her club is situated in a residential area with repeated problems due to the volume of the music and the chatter of customers. She (or he ...) does not say that the club is always open outside regular hours prescribed by law for all and bringing disorder causing problems to the local community.

How long we have to hear these lies and don't sleep at night?

Posted by James Deere on September 10, 2010 03:27

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Dear Anders how u can say that " Icon and Laguna in Rawai have it with sound proof walls/doors so they do not disturb sleeping people close by"? Do you sleep close to these discos? I don't think so, cause I hear a lot of complain from the next doors. And what about closing at 6 am and people go out? It's a mess, very loud with ladies screaming and engine running: impossible to sleep!!!!

Posted by Richard on September 10, 2010 08:42

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If I well remember, an innocent person was killed in front of Icon Pub at the first of the year. If would be closed at the right time this never happened!!

Posted by mr. Jhon on September 10, 2010 08:50

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Anyway in Bangla?? Road in Patong, the only zone where could be reasonable to leave bars and clubs open till late, this happen already. There is no reason for any other zone on the island: the tourists come here to go to the beach, to appreciate the nature, the quiet and to relax. Only a very small minority wanna go to discos till 6 a.m!! But this minority (when is very late and is very drunk) can make many problems to many people, to police first!

Posted by thaidriver on September 10, 2010 08:58

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Richard:

Do you prefer Icon and Laguna will be like open bars instead ? I don't mind clubs open to 5am as long as they are not disturbing living people nearby with noise OR people who make the noise
outside.

You are referring to complains, not your own words, and it's hard to determined if you are talking about yourself or the people that can't sleep.

And, yes I live about 300m from Icon and I still like the old Laguna in Nai Harn, if you was here too then ;)

Posted by Anders on September 10, 2010 10:48

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Mr. John,
there was people killed in a car accident. If the cars would be not on the street, it would not have happened.

Posted by Blb on September 10, 2010 11:09

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Blb
why u wanna lie?? I got from Newspaper of 1 January 2010 "Mr Wanchai was gunned down in front of the Icon Pub and Restaurant in the early morning hours on New Year's Day." Go to get a look if you can't remember or you don't want to remember...

Posted by Jhon on September 10, 2010 13:17

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About a month ago a well know pusher from France living in Rawai was catched by Chalong Police with 23 gr of cocaine and other minor drugs.. He was in the habit of going to one particular bar every night...

Posted by Tex on September 10, 2010 20:38

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Rightly the name of the bar had been hidden.. anyway now everybody can understand by themselves which club I meant: it's enough to read the news of today..

Posted by Tex on September 11, 2010 01:42

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Welcome to the future. Overcrowding means fewer and fewer will enjoy the past levels of privacy. This is what greedy no-zoning does for communities.

You made your beds, now lie in them.

Posted by Lt. Ripley on September 11, 2010 11:35

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I have lived in Patong for 11 years now and the conversion of a once quiet area adjacent to Nanai 2 into a venue for more bars and a festival area with very loud concerts that run often and until 2 or 3 AM has made sleep and relaxation impossible for many older local and normal residents and has reduced the quality of life and damaged health in ways that are immeasurable. Is there no limit to greed and corruption? Is there no way to regulate decibel level and hours of operation that take into consideration the needs of the people? Are there no laws that can be enforced to insure a future free of this abuse? Something must be done or we all will suffer.

Posted by Anonymous on January 23, 2011 01:04


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