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A Tesco protesters' image used to push their case against a new store

Phuket Protesters Seek Ghost of a Chance Against Big Phuket Retailer

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
PHUKET: Riddles and rumor are now surfacing as Phuket shopkeepers confront a supermarket giant over plans for a large retail outlet in the heart of old Phuket Town.

The senior spokesperson for Tesco Lotus in Thailand said today that the retailer had not issued any statement to the media and did not intend to do so.

Tesco Lotus National Media Relations Manager, Dr Phunthipra Tharaphibarn, Media Relations Manager, told Phuketwan that the retailer intended to wait for a public hearing and did not plan on making statements beforehand.

Phuket's English-language tabloid newspaper outlets have published a statement from Tesco about the conflict, without naming a specific source for the statement.

Meanwhile, opposition shopkeepers, who last week staged a street protest carrying placards saying, ''You Build It, We Will Burn It,'' plan to intensify their struggle.

Tesco launched Phuket's first supermarket in 1999 in what is now Phuket City and has since opened another large supermarket in central Thalang as well as a range of small to medium-sized outlets.

Most of the Tesco centres have other retailers operating under the same roof.

According to protesters, the reason why the Bangkok Road site that is being eyed by Tesco has never been previously developed is because of its history.

In 1984, a fire occurred at a brothel in Phuket Town's Poonpol district, and the bodies of four prostitutes were later found shackled to their beds.

The protesters believe superstitions would keep tradition-minded Phuket shoppers away from any store because the womens' ghosts are said to still roam.

It's a spirited debate. At a more practical level, the opponents of the retail giant believe local stores and the nearby fresh market would suffer if a new Tesco Lotus was built close to old Phuket Town, which is currently undergoing gentrification and a tourism revival based on its tradition and history.

On the other hand, Tesco would be competitive on prices and probably offer parking in an area where shoppers often find parking a problem.

Still unresolved is the authorship of the unofficial statement from Tesco, which was not sent to Phuketwan even though Phuketwan is Phuket's leading news site.

The unattributed Tesco statement reads:

''Tesco Lotus has been operating in Thailand for 18 years, delivering excellent value for our customers and actively contributing to local communities where we operate.

''We have helped customers lower their cost of living through low-price products and promotional campaigns, offered business opportunities to over 5,000 suppliers who sell their products in our stores, created over 40,000 full-time jobs nationwide and helped local communities through active staff volunteering of over 2.3 million hours last year.

''We serve a large number of customers each week, including small retailers who can buy our products in bulk to sell at a healthy margin.

''We always ensure that any proposal to open a new store complies with the relevant local and national regulations.

''For the planned project [in Phuket Town], we have gathered feedback from the community and conducted an environmental impact assessment which will be shared with the local community.

''We will continue to engage all local stakeholders to ensure that any action we take will best serve the people of Phuket.''

While the proposed supermarket site has its ghosts, Tesco Lotus appears to have its ghost writers.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Can't control the fact that customers prefer to go elsewhere? Just protest! Protesting seems to be all people can do...
Why would you make hundreds (or thousands) of people pay more for their costs of living, so that a few local stores can make money? I call it mafia, just as the tuktuk business.
Tesco, go ahead!

Posted by Tinkerbell on August 21, 2012 16:15

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The exact same thing happened in Samui around 6 years ago. The locals ended up closing the roads into the main Port in Nathon where the new store was to open. Tescos won that one and i'm sure they will win this one too.

Posted by phuket madness on August 21, 2012 16:34

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Sorry locals if you want to be scared of ghosties, then move off the island. Phuket has millions of ghosts wandering about day and night, but us foreigners like our shops clean and goods reasonably priced. Shape up or ship out. Your statement of built it we burn it is disgusting.

Posted by Robin on August 21, 2012 17:43

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The true problem - in my opinio n- is again with our capable leaders and authorities.

I fully agree that it is a blessing that we have malls such as TESCO, Big C etc. offering us competitive prices! I am truly happy that we have them!

However, I do totally disagree to open a huge mall right in the center at Phuket Town (City). It would not be possible in most western countries to build malls of this size and business model in the center of any city! The fact is that many countries have strict rules on those mega malls and its locations in order to protect the charms and culture of cities.

The reason why small shops in the western world survive and even have a 'comeback' is simply that they offer by now better service, better products, better care etc. compared to the big malls.

The problem with Thailand small grocery shops is simply that they offer 3rd grade product, 4th. grade storage, dust and expired products and less friendly and professional service then TESCO or BIG C etc.

Posted by Mr. K on August 21, 2012 18:33

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''You Build It, We Will Burn It,''

The result of letting people get away with airport seizures and burning down a city center is just this - anarchy.

In many countries statements like that would land you in court with charges of inciting violence.

Posted by Andrew on August 21, 2012 19:11

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I am sure that Tesco could bring in monks & organize a suitable ceremony that will appease the ghosts of the 4 unfortunate girls. After 28 years, it is time somebody did. Maybe a little shrine could be built in their memory.

Posted by Logic on August 21, 2012 21:59


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