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Phuket's Governor: he has heard the talk that he may soon be arrested

Phuket Roads War: Now it's 'Arrest the Governor'

Monday, August 10, 2009
RUMORS that Phuket's Governor might face arrest if he pursues his plan for a new road between Patong and Chalong were flying on the island today.

Environmentalists are determined that the road will not go ahead. Governor Wichai Praisa-nob insists that it must. Both sides say they are acting in Phuket's best interests.

''I am not stupid,'' the governor told Phuketwan when the issue was raised in an interview on Friday. ''That's why I went to Bangkok to talk to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister this week.''

Should the road go ahead or not? Tell us now! Comment below


Governor Wichai is pursuing his aim to give Phuket a proper network of roads before his enforced retirement next year, when he turns 60. But he told Phuketwan that he would not do anything illegal.

''Even after I retire, I will want to be able to come back to Phuket,'' he said.

A new road between Patong and Chalong would cut distance and travelling time between the two heavily populated centres and open up a speedy connection between the island's south, including Chalong, Rawai and Naiharn, and its north-west resorts, including Kamala and Surin.

It's estimated that the distance that needs to be travelled by road would be slashed from the present 20 kilometres to five kilometres.

But the new route would require permission from the Environment Department because it goes through forestry land and rises beyond 200 metres, well above the 80 metre height limit on all development.

Environmentalists fear the road would quickly become lined with commercial outlets and create a precedent for developers to push for an end to the ''green ban'' height limit.

Buildings erected before the height limit was imposed remain above 80 metres, and some critics believe other construction has gone ahead in defiance of the restriction.

As Phuket's coastal townships become more developed and remaining land values soar, the owners of land above 80 metres are likely to intensify pressure to have the building ban shifted higher, or removed entirely.

The debate cuts to the heart of Phuket's future: does development continue regardless of population pressures, or is there a point at which the island reach a balance with nature that should not be exceeded?

If the second argument is accepted, who decides when the balance has been reached?

A new road would allow most tourists to more easily access the Big Buddha at Chalong, one of the island's key attractions, which became an exception to the green ban when approval was granted for it to be built on the top of Nakkerd Hill.

Since then, the road to the Big Buddha has been populated by commercial establishments, many well above the 80 metre limit.

The governor supports enviromental balance and has said Phuket already has enough development but insists the road is an essential piece of infrastructure for the island's future.

His other landmark projects include creating a second highway between Phuket International Airport and Phuket City and a road that would connect Saphan Hin public park and Sakdidet Road in Phuket City.

Work is reported to be due to begin next month, even though the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has yet to approve the project. A mangrove forest could be at risk.

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Comments

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The road is not essential. There are both good points and bad points to it. Bending the law in this case will bring about further problems for sure. Let people drive the extra distance. Can you imagine it taking only 5 mins and the speed people will drive down the hill. Plenty of accidents waiting to happen. Waste of time, effort and money. Focus on the more important issues.

Posted by Duncan on August 10, 2009 10:49

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Build the road ok ! The risks have to be taken to see improvement. Move foward, please? This will benefit all local people and tourists alike. It gets my positive vote.

Posted by Graham on August 10, 2009 11:05

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The road doesn't "have to be built", it has been built already.

On each side of the hill the road is surfaced, it is just at the top where the road wasn't surfaced, a particularly steep bit, that has washed away and has to be bypassed.

I agree with no buildings over the 80 metre mark, but, a road is different, it's infrastructure.

A through road from Chalong to Patong would be an asset to all inhabitants.

Posted by Sir Burr on August 10, 2009 12:13

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Phuket Governor is correct 200% to open that road between
Patong-Kamala and Chalong Bay as it will reduce the traffic through Kata-Karon Road and will make more convenient and will shorter the time to travel which is at least a 40 minute drive during the high season.

All boat tour operators in Chalong Bay will welcome that new road as often many tourists cancel extra day boat trips because they get bored with too much waste of time in land transfers and the inconvenient Chalong Pier boat boarding.

Encroachment within national forest is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Royal Thai Forest Department but the national sport in Thailand is to blame others when some government agencies fail their duties to protect national natural assets.

Flagrant corruption is the main cause of illegal construction on Phuket hills.

The listing of all of Phuket as a special administrative zone for sustainable tourism development (DASTA) may help to fight illegal businesses and corruption in Phuket.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 10, 2009 12:45

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Build the road.
However, I agree that there is risk of illegal buildings sprouting up.

This can be addressed when building the road. Just use measures that make it impossible to build next to the road.

Posted by Max on August 10, 2009 15:27

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reducing the trip by 15km reduces CO emission of vehicles having to drive the extra distance, reduce fuel consumption, reduce traffic accidents in Kata-Karon, reducing traffic jams at Chalong Circle etc.

An environmental agency needs to see the actual benefits for the island, instead of focusing on building limits laws that the local government will fail to enforce if the road is built.

Southern Phuket districts need this new road.

Posted by Tdo on August 10, 2009 18:21

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No amount of road building alleviates traffic jams.
Los Angeles officials tried building freeways in that place for thirty years.

The appalling traffic gridlocks were never fixed.
Phuket is probably headed the same way.

Posted by david on August 10, 2009 20:12

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Why bother building a new road when there will just be gridlock at each end?

Posted by GlobalGypsy on August 10, 2009 20:21

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Build the road, save lives, not only time and pollution! And bring in a law forbidding any roadside building. Regular laybys would be good for broken down cars/trucks/buses.

Posted by elizabeth on August 10, 2009 20:47

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It there are only rubber trees and the natural jungle is already gone then who cares!

Hoopefully less travel time, and less Phuket hill mean fewer accidents, but then again you could always take the budget for the road and do some Public Service Announcements or some kind of safety campaign..

Posted by Vfaye on August 11, 2009 01:04

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Build the road. Cutting a 20 minute journey to 5 minutes will make a huge difference to getting around the island. And if 'they' are worried about illegal building activity, the governor could give more power to the authorities to go after the plainly criminal elements in planning and approval at the local administrations.

Posted by Mikun on August 11, 2009 09:34

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To Vfaye: The issue is not rubber trees or virgin forest, it is the preservation of rain catchment areas, and rubber trees serve the same purpose as other trees.

To elizabeth: The law is already in place, the 1997 Environmental Protection Regulations, but it is widely ignored. All you have to look at 50 Pi Road where new buildings extend all along it up to 150 m high.

Look at what is happening along the new road up to the Big Buddha.

What happened there will surely happen to this new road. Unless the governor can guarantee and will vigorously enforce the existing laws in this respect, the road should be held in abeyance.

Perhaps a tunnel is the better answer.

Posted by Guenter Bellach on August 11, 2009 11:29

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Build more roads and you'll only get more traffic. Build "safer" roads and people will only drive faster.
No more roads until a viable, workable and thoroughly utilized mass transit system is in place.
Phuket needs a system of uni-rails, not more roads.

Posted by Mother Earth on August 14, 2009 11:43


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