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Dr Preecha Ruangjan declares his stand on development

Phuket Governor Ordered Off 'Private' Beach

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
PHUKET's new governor has indicated that developers may find it difficult to win approval for projects that do not benefit the island in obvious ways.

He met today with Jumeirah developer Dilokpol Sundaravej, of the TGR Group Asia, and was outspoken in his criticism of ''people who pluck the stars from the sky.''

The Jumeirah project involves about 40 up-market villas and a resort on 170 rai on the small island of Koh Rat, off Phuket's east coast.

Dr Preecha Ruangjan, who has been in the role for one month, told the Jumeirah managing director, his wife and his marketing manager: ''You come and you take. You never give anything back.''

The governor, whose words surprised others present in the room, urged the Jumeirah team (and other developers) to go through regular departments to seek permission for projects.

It is customary for both Thais and foreigners seeking the go-ahead for innovations and development projects to meet with the governor before proceeding.

The Jumeirah team was intending to discuss new projects, beyond Koh Rat, with the governor. But the governor's words brought the conversation to an abrupt halt.

Before meeting the Governor, Khun Dilokpol told Phuketwan that Phuket could become very prosperous if everybody joined together with the aim of growing the five-star market for tourism and property.

His Middle East backers wanted to invest in more resort and villa projects. Phuket needed more quality resorts to compare and compete with Bali, he said.

However, when the meeting began, Governor Preecha took a different view. He said he was surprised by the level of development when he arrived on Phuket.

As a newcomer, he decided to look around the island as an ordinary citizen would, without people knowing that he was the new governor.

On the first weekend, he and his wife drove around, and got lost. ''Don't worry,'' he told her. ''We must still be on the island because we haven't crossed the bridge.''

Later, he went exploring on the back of a motorcycle driven by Promchote Traivate, the local representative for the Tourism and Sport Department.

One day, the governor went for a walk by the sea, he told the Jumeirah team, and was confronted by people who told him it was a private beach.

He did not tell the person who he was, but went to other beaches to see what would happen.

''Even the governor of Phuket cannot walk on many of the island's beaches,'' he said. The governor said that Phuket's environment was not protected in the proper way.

His home province of Pijit, north of Bangkok, was better protected, he told the Jumeirah team.

The governor's response today after his experience on the ''private'' beach can be expected to have consequences for developers of all kinds of projects on Phuket.

Dr Preecha has already established a reputation for turning up unexpectedly in places to see for himself whenever he can.

His first-person approach has already been applied to several disputes.

He told the Jumeirah group that he would prefer people who wished to approach him to take their concepts to the appropriate authorities first.

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Comments

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I want to say a big big "thank you" to the new Governor, Dr Preecha Ruangjan.
If he and his staff can really do something with the illegal use of beaches as "private" I will appreciate it very much.
Many times I try to go in beaches like the Meridien/Relax Bay or the little one on the road to Kata view point (Nui beach??) or Pansea beach....only to be stopped or asking for payment.
So: thanks again, Governor. Claude

Posted by claude on November 19, 2008 12:21

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I'll be very happy if the new Governor after the words about the "private" beaches will follows the facts.
It is a shame that public beaches are, in effect, forbidden....
Also a big shame is the tuk-tuk mafia in Patong....I hope the Governor will do something....
Gianni

Posted by george on November 20, 2008 15:59

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Having spent a few lovely months in Phuket over the past four years, I've noticed increasing development, not all of it good. I applaud the new governor!

Posted by Dave B from California on December 5, 2008 09:58

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So sad for Phuket people. They're becoming second class citizens in their own place. It's time to put a STOP to these rich property developers and their snooty 'enclaves' and give the land back to the local people. It's such a shame you can't even enjoy natures beaches because it's 'off limits' to non demi-gods like you and me. Good work, Gov Dr. Ruangjan, and good luck to you.

Posted by lisa clarke on December 6, 2008 13:06

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From a simple perspective, the forthcoming Thai depression. Every little helps:

Far more attuned minds than mine are attempting to solve the world's economic woes caused by the greed of a few so I will not try. Parochially though, I just wish to throw in some old fashioned 'Macauber' style common sense to help out the innocent majority. The time is right for radical measures before it is too late and as such I believe Thailand could well be in an unique position to introduce them.

As in all wars (before food shortage becomes the overriding physical dispute, this crisis is initially a financial one caused by want over need) there is no doubt that a few (possibly some who caused it) will benefit, even greatly, from the suffering of many. Some self-interested politicians will secure their futures on it even though appearing to represent the 'common' man.

A factor which seems at present to be working against the vast majority of Thai people is the current strength of the Baht. Of course there are some with influence who claim that a strong currency is good for the pride of the nation (and coincidentally, usually their own pockets). In over 40 years of enjoying your welcoming culture, unfortunately I have witnessed a so-called weak currency which provided general security, prosperity and good nature slowly turn into a strong currency breeding unhappiness, discontent, envy and anger ... all symptoms of western materialism. In Bangkok the smiles have largely turned superficial and I do not want to see such a western phenomenon spread. Unfortunately, I now see it in the eyes of the attendants in many a plush resort in Phuket. The moodiness, tension and selfishness of farangs is not 'cool' but highly infectious.

I would free the Baht and immediately institute a substantial (and I mean substantial) devaluation of the monetary unit in order to get the economy in normal motion again and try to restore previous qualities. Some financial gurus claim that the money markets do not lie ... Oh, really? It was the deception of the world money market which helped get us into this mess which now needs drastic steps suffered by the rest of us to solve it. Political pride should take a back seat to the needs of the country. Pride is all well and good provided one can afford it!

Like other countries, the last thing Thailand needs though is to enact an anachronistic call for any form of protectionism (On the other hand though it is also counterproductive to boast about record exports of rice when citizens here go without!).

Protectionism would be disastrous as the Kingdom is still relatively alone in being able to remain welcoming and offer something completely different to the rest of the world.

For half a century (to my personal knowledge) Thailand has offered visitors a cost effective escape from the woes and tensions of their own pressured societies with good value also associated with comparative technology, relaxation and sincerity. Even in hard times therefore I suggest aliens will still seek such brief (less hectic and 'cheaper-than-staying-at-home') respite. In turn they will continue to provide a vital contribution to an economy fast approaching irreparable downturn. Thailand should thus be taking advantage of what it has to offer, or, by pricing itself out of the market with punitive exchange rates (presently causing a true cost increase of over 30% to some), risk losing the income to neighbouring countries which cannot yet claim such advanced infrastructure. By drawing foreign visitors in through tourism then the seed can be sown for other investment. Shut them out, either socially or economically, and one becomes isolated like the present day Myanmar. Despite political upheavals which foreign newspapers love, in order to reassure potential visitors however, much should be made of the actual stability provided by the presence of the King who is rightly loved by all political shades of people.

Of course, significant devaluation is not without its drawbacks and it might dent the overseas buying power of the few and make some imports (like fuel) more expensive, but the many who remain in their own county would clearly benefit. (It's no good having cheaper commodities if the 'common' man is unable to find work to pay for them.) The traditional Thai culture and the country, NOT westernisation for the sake of it, is the salubrious resource that western countries can never match.

Tourism would once again become cheap enough to encourage visitors to get away from their own pressures (no wonder many look so miserable), but at the moment I fear that that vast GDP contributor is in danger of fading away. I was a general supporter of the PAD until its airport fiasco jeopardised the livelihoods of some 2 million nationals. Let it serve as a timely warning of the importance of non-Thai visitors. My solution might not work but continuing to drive away tourism and deny anything is wrong will definitely not work and 'bread-and-butter' tourism (not the high end elite) and Thai lifestyle might never recover.
As pertinent example: Because of the severe recession in effect causing significant Sterling devaluation, the UK tourist industry is expecting a boom year in 2009 with bookings already significantly up ... and the UK can only guarantee sightseeing in a country of gloom.

With less punitive exchange rates, Thai exports might also stabilise to keep indigenous employment. It is delusion to think that the Kingdom is immune from world recession.

Even though I am a comparatively well-off Foreign guest myself who enjoys living in this wondrous country, I am also against the unconditional selling of freehold land to non-Thais. Short term, the influx of such Foreign cash might seem a good idea (especially to those who benefit financially) but long term, for the Nation's culture and future generations, it is bad news. Again the examples in the UK, France and the Iberian Peninsular is that local people have become unable to afford to live in many areas of their own countries where prices have been driven up exponentially by the knock-on principles of property prices and over development for a quick profit. One only has to see the generic architecture of 'Anytown' which is often totally unsuited to the climate (thus needing abundant air-conditioning in the tropics) to realise that local culture is slowly being destroyed or priced out of reach. The same is happening in former Soviet satellite countries where the greed for a fast buck is overcoming community needs. I am all for racial integration, inclusiveness and social interaction but not at the expense of destroying a nation's heritage. (Neither, incidentally, does over development sustain the local labour market.)

However, in Thailand I also recommend removing (in fact the opposite of protectionist trade barriers) the tax imposition on Foreign-owned 'not-for-sale' imports especially for repair and/or renovation which, in fact, serves to generate valuable work for local Thai tradesmen. The Phuket model of boat tax reduction has proved a great success to the local economy in the good times ... so it is worthy of extension in the bad.

I would also relax the regulations on acquiring long stay visas (NOT on regular monitoring) rather than loose Foreign spending by illogical visa-runs to other countries or by driving spenders out of the country altogether.

Alternatively, we can just continue to bury our heads in the sand.

STOP PRESS: On Sunday's radio it was announced that the Government has at last admitted that there may be troubled financial problems ahead ..... May be?

From a lover of Thailand and its people.

Posted by freeman on March 9, 2009 18:41

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It has become a nightmare to cross roads in central Phuket Town. "The hardly visible faded out pedestrian crossings" are totally ignored by most cars & 100% of Bike riders. It is common knowledge by tourists in most countries that Thai Drivers & Bikers in Phuket regard pedestrians as a nuisance! they are mainly damn tourists & they should understand that in Phuket they should always give way to the speeding traffic! "But they think they have rights on faded crossings! they have to understand that in Thailand the Car is king not like in western Countries where the human is more important!
Please Governor get the Pedestrian crossings pre Painted immediately In Bold colors like Black & Yellow stripes & start educating Thai drivers that The Human is far more important than the motor vehicle they are obviously don't understand that the time is 2011 not 1980 & they MUST start obeying the Road laws. How some got (or bought) a driving licence is not understandable to mainly Western Tourists!

Posted by William on January 29, 2011 14:24


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