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A group from Phuket City's new market present Governor Wichai with roses

Proper Phuket Zoning Looms as an Impossible Dream

Thursday, September 2, 2010
News Analysis

AS PHUKET Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob held his final media conference yesterday, it became plain that he retires somewhat reluctantly, with many of Phuket's problems unresolved.

For example, there's the governor's suggestion that Phuket needs an entertainment zone or zones, so that tourists can find the nightlife that international holiday hotspots are apparently supposed to deliver as a matter of course.

The reaction of Thai journalists yesterday indicated that the September 8 meeting at the Metropole Hotel to discuss his idea should be lively. How, most of them wanted to know, can you have one late-drinking rule for an expat visitor and another for his Thai girlfriend?

The governor was at a loss for an answer yesterday, but is keen to have the concept fully debated. In the big picture, where all Phuket's problems swirl about, the governor will not be going from Phuket for good. He has to return to Phuket to continue court battles with the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Forests Department.

His plans for new roads that are seen as essential for the island's future growth have been contested by the two departments. Now the courts will eventually decide whether Phuket needs a new Phuket City link through the Saphan Hin mangroves, and a route through the hills between Chalong and Patong.

Governor Wichai is heading into retirement, having raised many important issues. Yet the question now has to be asked: how can any governor expect to be able to set a strategy for Phuket's future development in place in the space of just 16 months?

Meanwhile, the future of the island remains as murky as a rubber plantation after dark.

Just as one example, it's worth pointing out that if the governor's proposed second highway is not approved, and the light-rail project from the airport to Phuket City gets the go-ahead, the likelihood is that Governor Wichai's wonderful boulevard of palmyra will be at serious risk of having to make way for the rail line.

One step forward, two steps back. With the property boosters baying for a better deal, it's really time the national government recognised the importance of the entire ''Greater Phuket'' region and did something to make it a place where future generations of Thais can be proud to live.

Let's face it: without a coordinated approach to achieving a balance between the island's growing future needs as a tourist haven and the protection of the environment, Phuket is doomed to end up as a lacklustre also-ran holiday destination, lined wall-to-wall - or rather, door-to-door - with shophouses.

The national government must impose a plan that ensures Phuket's healthy survival and prosperity, and that also takes account of the entire Greater Phuket region, including Phang Nga and Krabi.

The present Phang Nga governor, another man of action, is retiring with Governor Wichai. We don't know what the Krabi governor thinks: he declines to be interviewed.

Plainly, the time has come for a plan.

Let those who boost higgledy-piggledy development have their way, and all three provinces will continue to run the risk of being seriously mucked up.

Governor Wichai has been a breath of fresh air in terms of tackling the chronic issues that assail Phuket, not the least being corruption. Most importantly, he's a man who respects diversity of opinion and he is unafraid to express a bold viewpoint.

He has listened especially carefully to the two largest minority communities: the expats, through the establishment of the honorary consuls' quarterly meetings, and the Muslims, who make up almost one third of Phuket's population, through regular, frequent visits to local communities.

We don't know who will succeed him, but we hope the national government has given it a lot of thought. And that it is a governor who is happy to talk to the media.
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Comments

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Bye, Governor. Miss you already.

Posted by Lena on September 2, 2010 13:56

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Thanks for trying governor..you have done your best... no one can ask for more... Good luck in your retirement

Posted by barka on September 2, 2010 14:15

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Bang goes continuity of service, once again, three steps forward and thirty steps backwards.
Have a good retirement.

To the new governor, please try to continue to follow through and keep the ball (s) rolling on the important issues, your predecessor tried, only to be whisked away by retirement.

Posted by Robin on September 2, 2010 15:05

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What good can anyone in power achieve in just a short space of time - NOTHING and that's exactly what each one achieves.

It's all window dressing.

Posted by Graham on September 2, 2010 17:34

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The problem with the Governors is not the Governors but the time they are in the job. Short term Governorships provide no real amount of time to come to grips with issues and address them properly.

Khun Wichai has done his best and seemed genuinely prepared to get things sorted but unless his successor is like minded all his ambitions will probably fall by the wayside.

Posted by Mister Ree on September 2, 2010 19:43


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