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Left in the dark, so picnic in the park: today's Phuket venue protest

Phuket Venues Stage Protest Over Midnight Crackdown; Governor Adds One Hour

Friday, January 21, 2011
BAR and nightclub owners mounted a public protest to Phuket's Governor today over a crackdown that has forced them to obey the closing time laws in Kata, Karon and Rawai.

About 100 owners and operators of venues that included karaokes and restaurants staged a demonstration outside Provincial Hall in Phuket City with the notoriously outspoken owner of Rawai's Laguna Bar saying for all to hear: ''This is unfair. I've paid money under the table to police to stay open.''

Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha met the protesters outside his offices and offered them a 1am closing time instead of the midnight closing that has been strictly enforced since a crackdown began on January 14.

Governor Tri said the new closing time would be enforced by officials who would not let anyone open later than 1.30am.

The midnight crackdown closure has seen the business that usually keeps venues in the southern part of the island humming move to the west coast entertainment capital of Patong, where no such enforcement has been evident.

The Governor started the crackdown at the behest of the Interior Ministry. Officials in the department were hoping that strict enforcement would provide them with a ''Phuket model'' to ensure greater control - and increased safety and security - for nighttime venues all over the country.

The crackdown was carried out by government officials because police no longer have the power to enforce closing time laws, although officers can certainly drop broad hints and have been known to do so quite often.

Today's protest started at 10am and was over by midday. While the governor entertained a group of spokespeople in his office, other protesters relaxed in a picnic-like atmosphere in the gardens.

A petition presented to the governor said the midnight closure had a large effect on venues because it was the middle of Phuket's high season.

The rents of venues were high and operators needed to make as much money as possible in high season to cope with the downswing later in the year.

After raids in Phuket City and Rawai netted a series of arrests of venue managers who paid small fines for opening after-hours, the future of the ''Phuket model'' remains uncertain.

Governor Tri said that many venues were not registered. His officials would close them at midnight until they registered and conformed to safety and security regulations.

He said the government remained concerned about the prevalence of drugs and would continue to keep a close watch on the industry.

Policy on Phuket's nightlife is conflicted by the desire to give Phuket's tourists a good time and yet protect young Thais from the evils of drugs and drink.

Governor Tri's predecessor, Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob, was keen to establish parts of the island where expat tourists could party later but the problem continues to be the impression of inequality this would create.
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Comments

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About 100 owners and operators of venues that included karaokes and restaurants staged a demonstration outside Provincial Hall in Phuket City with the notoriously outspoken owner of Rawai's Laguna Bar saying for all to hear: ''This is unfair. I've paid money under the table to police to stay open.''

Don't ya just love it. Must have paid to the 'wrong' police, she should report the matter to the 'other' police but of course they have no jurisdiction over closing times and the Governor has no control over the police.

I'm confused.

Posted by innocent bystander on January 21, 2011 13:13

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It certainly is a complicated issue. Midnight closing time is unusually early by international standards but the law should be obeyed.

Police taking bribes and offering "special privileges" only makes matters worse.

Tourism drives Phuket and though it would certainly benefit the business if there were special areas staying open later, how can you justify that foreigners may enter those establishments but Thais may not.

How would this be applied to the thousands of Thai women who work in the entertainment industry.

On the other hand some countries have laws concerning their citizens entry to Casinos and I have not heard cries of discrimination.

I think proper zoning would solve the most urgent problems of noise pollution.

Give some leeway with opening hours, but force the entertainment business to move away from residential areas.

Posted by Chris on January 21, 2011 13:16

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Give some leeway with opening hours, but force the entertainment business to move away from residential areas... well spoken Chris.. but impossible to realise..

Posted by Dave on January 21, 2011 13:23

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''This is unfair. I've paid money under the table to police to stay open.''

Perhaps the time has come that we residents have to pay the police to sleep quiet?

Posted by Resident on January 21, 2011 13:34

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@chris - nobody is suggesting that thais are not allowed into the venues in the 'special entertainment zones'- simply that these zones are more beneficial to businesses that rely heavily on the tourist beer baht.

Posted by another steve on January 21, 2011 15:09

Editor Comment:

That was certainly the premise of Governor Wichai's concept.

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Stupid question, but why is Patong not included in this?

I don't understand this part:

"The crackdown was carried out by government officials because police no longer have the power to enforce closing time laws, although officers can certainly drop broad hints and have been known to do so quite often."

I can tell you first hand having witnessed this, Police do enforce closing times by closing bars and putting their own locks on when closing bars in Patong, charging owners up to 50,000 Baht in a "fine" and up to 3 weeks to get the lock of the bar.

It is absolutely luducrious that Police cannot enforce closing times, what is the purpose? Police cannot do not seem to stop people driving without helmets or for traffic violations, cannot close an establisment for violating closing times, do they do anything without a check point an order for a crackdown?

Posted by Lee on January 21, 2011 15:41

Editor Comment:

The Interior Ministry has control over closing times, not the police. It came about under PM Thaksin. When the Thai Royal Police won independence, some of their powers remained with the Interior Ministry. Patong is a beneficiary of early closing in southern Phuket. You don't really expect them to join this protest, do you?

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one rule for Patong and another for the rest of the island is just not on.
This shows that there is no real law and order on this island, they are too scared to go and close bars in Patong.

Posted by lord Jim on January 21, 2011 16:13

Editor Comment:

Patong bars have been closed in similar fashion from time to time. It may be they were targetting the areas with the most unregistered venues.

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Or could it be that the Interior Ministry gets a nice kickback from the Patong nightlife providers but the rest of the Island won't step into line? Naw, perish the thought! How could I even imagine it?

Posted by A, Skeptic on January 21, 2011 16:16

Editor Comment:

Because you have a suspicious mind of the kind that refuses to accept alternative logical explanations?

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"The Interior Ministry has control over closing times, not the police. It came about under PM Thaksin. When the Thai Royal Police won independence, some of their powers remained with the Interior Ministry. Patong is a beneficiary of early closing in southern Phuket. You don't really expect them to join this protest, do you?"

Understand the Ministry of Interior has control of closing times, but who enforces that closing time (in Patong) unless the Ministry of Interior is here in Phuket?

Have you been in Patong when the Police line up on all the sois on Bangla and closed bars (2 am for a regular beer bar)? Or have you been in Patong when the Police line up on the sois and the bars that want to stay open and pay 5,000 Baht to do so??? I have seen this, as probably many readers, maybe you have not. Maybe that is the special thing Patong is allowed :)

Posted by Lee on January 21, 2011 16:56

Editor Comment:

I plan to live my life without ever indulging the need to be in Patong at 2am, Lee. My understanding is that the police are there for other reasons, yet if push came to shove, a bar owner could say: ''You don't have the power to close us.'' It may never happen, though.

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You are missing the fundumental question. If Police (per PW report) cannot close bars because of closing times, why does it happen by the Police in Patong??? (Do you think Patong bars should question this???)

But yet in Rawai, the Laguna Nightclub (many open air bars before you get to the nightclub, many say they do not open until midnight, something is not right here ;)

I happen to be in Patong to meet and greet the US Navy, you are not and maybe rely on the Phuket League for your updates, we see how that worked out ;)

Posted by Lee on January 21, 2011 18:38

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If you haven't seen the closures on the soi's from Bangla, then you cannot comment, Police line up and walk the soi's, all, (this is at 2 am, what would be the other reason for police to do this??? (If there is another reason, please tell) and "close" them, whether that is telling them to close, telling everyone to leave and locking with their own locks, or taking a bit of money to stay open, you seem to have the answers but are not there when this happens :)

Posted by Lee on January 21, 2011 18:54

Editor Comment:

I'm not sure that being there would equip us with the answers, Lee, and as we cannot comment, I'm not sure why you've asked.

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To me the main question should be - If the Laguna person claims to have paid money, why is no one investigating the corruption?

Posted by Tbs on January 21, 2011 20:51

Editor Comment:

Because corruption is an entrenched part of life in Thailand, and it has been for 200 years. ''Corruption is like a ghost: never seen, but we know it's there.''


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