PHUKET'S deadliest, most dangerous traffic hot-spot has been closed. Police are fighting to keep it safe. But will it stay closed?
The Bang Shelao u-turn, at the intersection of Soi Bang Shelao with Thepkasattri Road, near the Supercheap store, has claimed at least 10 road fatalities in three years and has been the scene of scores of injuries.
But nearby villagers are objecting to the closure because it makes coming and going more difficult for thousands of residents in the area.
The turning point was closed on Wednesday. A previous closure proved to be only temporary.
This time, police are hoping to make it permanent. On Friday, Colonel Wanchai Eakpornpit, the Superintendent of Phuket City Police Station sat down with local leaders to make the case for keeping the intersection closed.
Debate about the future of the intersection raises the issue of Phuket's collective willingness to end deaths and injuries on the island's roads.
Anurak Hongwongpaisan, 70, heads the village of Bang Shelao Moo 2 , says that the closure of the road affects at least 4000 residents. Even more real estate is being developed in the area.
The turning point on Thepkasattri Road has been shifted 300 metres, so residents, used to a direct turn, now have to go a considerable distance out of their way.
After talking at length to Colonel Wanchai, Khun Anurak said: ''If police can close this turn forever, that would be good.''
But he added that the new turning-point, near a temple, was in a dark area that left motorcycle riders vulnerable to attack.
He said he would like to see a police officer on duty at the turning point at key times, and for security cameras to be installed to improve safety around the clock.
Colonel Wanchai spent two hours talking to residents, and to retailers in the main road. They fear a drop in patronage.
The corner, which comes at a downward stretch where many motorists pick up speed on the main road, was the scene of a crash in 2007.Six people, visiting from Krabi, were killed.
So far already this year, there have been nine collisions at the corner.
Motorcycles often cut in without looking to the main road, and sometimes head straight across to and from the Supercheap store.
In 2009, police records show there were 52 incidents and five deaths at the ''hot-spot,'' with scores of people injured and other incidents probably going unreported.
The deadly corner has now been blocked cou by a temporary barrier. Police are obliged to check regularly to make sure it remains there.
Colonel Wanchai has asked the Highways Department to put in a permanent barrier as soon as possible, and will seek the security cameras for the new u-turn spot from the local tessaban Rassada council.
The colonel expects to have to go back several times to the area to persuade residents that the closure is vital for public safety.