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Now Phuket has a chance to collect illegal weapons and tame the thugs

Phuket's Asean Invasion: The Winners and Losers

Friday, July 24, 2009
FROM midnight tonight, the invasion and occupation of Phuket ends and the retreat begins. More than 10,000 soldiers and police will begin a phased withdrawal. Nineteen police groups around the southern provinces and beyond each sent 300 officers. About 1000 air force personnel will stay on after the expiration of the Internal Security Act covering the Asean event. They are to help with the clean-up.

The Outcome


REACTION has been overwhelmingly positive. For Thailand, this week's talkfest on Phuket has restored international confidence in the country. The fiasco of Pattaya in April should be a fading memory from now on. For Phuket, there are some highly-placed people from 26 countries now spreading the good word. For Laguna Phuket, and for other hotels wnere delegates stayed, including Indigo Pearl, Twin Palms and the Chedi, there has been a windfall boost to revenue. A spokesperson for the Sheraton Grande, where all the nations gathered, said: ''It has been absolutely brilliant.'' Most of those involved would agree.

The Cost


A HUGE sums has been spent, great wads of it on security. The total bill will not be known for months, but the cost of security alone will run into hundreds of millions of baht. But a spokesman for the US Embassy told Phuketwan ''The cost is little compared to the enormous benefits of conferences like this one and of the success of this one in particular. Phuket can be justly proud that it has played host to such a productive meeting. The United States signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with Asean, a milestone event in our relations with Asia. Secretary Clinton said that America is back, and she said it in Thailand.''

The Future


LAGUNA will be marking the 40th anniversary of the moon landing with a Moon Walk Fancy Dress Party from 5pm on Saturday, aimed mostly at children. But plans will be being made both in the north and south of the island to bid for the key role of resort hosts for the Asean Plus Six Summit in October. This meeting involved 27 nations. The October session will bring 16 national leaders, including China, India and Japan. Thai officials have said it will definitely be held in Phuket. But where? The Hilton Arcadia Phuket in Karon was to be host when the gathering was rescheduled hastily from Pattaya to Phuket in June. Now that the event has been postponed until October, both ends of the island are likely to be in the running. Both have security clearances. Both have strong recommendations.

Positives


THAILAND and Hillary Clinton emerged as the big victors. Thailand probably still has a bit to do before the embarrasing nightmare of the Pattaya invasion is no longer snickered about. Apart from the two-kilometre tailbacks on the first day and the bomb scare involving over-reaction to a motorcycle with a flat tyre, security worked seamlessly. Locals and tourists, issued with passes, went about business and fun with few interruptions. Hillary Clinton was ''very very friendly'' with everyone, except that pair of unrepentant villains, North Korea and Burma. The white hat she wore as sheriff in Asia will shine brightly back in Washington.

Negatives


GATHERINGS like this one are structured in a formulaic way and seldom produce surprises. On face value, the achievements were few. Indonesia wants a tougher approach on human rights and may even hint at deserting Asean unless Burma is brought into line soon. The Asean Regional Forum failed to deal with people-movement, both legal and illegal, the single factor that ties together issues such as the spread of viruses such as H1N1, the ease with which terrorist move, and the horrors of human-trafficking, including Rohingya boat people. The concept of absolute border security and one visa for all of South East-Asia remains light years away. Expulsion of any country over human rights seems as remote as ever. Burma is still Asean's burden, a basket case devoid of hope for its people until the generals are deposed.

Local Hero


GOVERNOR Wichai Praisa-nob can claim much of the credit for Phuket looking good and presenting an attractive image for tourism. While the Asean gabfest probably won't be much of a direct marketing tool, it will not have done any harm. Talking up the October event should be a good starter for the high season, too. While security is on people's minds, the Governor also has the opportunity between now and October to improve safety on the island. If the next summit is to be held in Karon, then Patong will need to be free of illegal weapons and thugs. The Summer Clean Up Phuket campaign should be extended to corruption, too. Here's the governor's chance to make the last few months before his retirement the most rewarding of his career.

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Sunday August 18, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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