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Honorary consuls and ambassadors prepare to meet in November

The Phuket Innovation of the Year 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011
PHUKET: Are Phuket's honorary consuls brave, or foolish? There's a continuing debate among some officials on the island. They cannot understand what motivates the international group.

We write ''international group'' but there are as many Thais among the 20 or so Phuket envoys as there are overseas nationals.

''We don't do it for the money,'' the hon cons usually chorus when anyone asks. Delve a little deeper, and most put it down to caring about Phuket.

Whatever the motivation, the Phuket Governor's three-monthly meeting with honorary consuls is the Phuketwan/Phuket Post Phuket Innovation of the Year 2011.

We just hope it lasts. The award is timely because the gatherings, which began in 2010, are again under a cloud.

Not all Phuket authorities like to have the problems of Phuket displayed so publicly. Not all Phuket authorities like to be questioned so openly about policies and attitudes.

And none of the honorary consuls enjoy being criticised, sometimes quite unfairly, for their outspoken honesty.

An intriguing pandora's box has been opened on Phuket over the past two years as the honorary consuls have highlighted Phuket's enduring problems: jet-ski scams, ridiculously high tuk-tuk and taxi fares, thuggish behavior, a crowded airport and obvious cases of corruption.

Phuket authorities have also been able to demonstrate that expats and tourists bring plenty of their own problems with them.

These go beyond alcohol binges and punch-ups: most of the notable murders of expats on Phuket over the past two years have been carried out by other expats.

Practical results from the consuls' gathering are thin so far - the appointment of a woman police officer who will oversee rape cases is one.

But the meetings themselves are an important recognition that Phuket's future is international, and no longer solely about Thais and Thailand.

A simple life-and-death statistic makes the point. Seven years on, the most important remembrance of the Andaman coast tsunami is its revealing death toll.

Of the 5400 victims, almost exactly half were Thai and half were from 40 other countries. If anything, Phuket and the Andaman region have grown more international in the years since.

Nothing else so clearly makes the point that recent history and the crystal ball for the future clearly mark Phuket as an international destination - an international island-city, really, with many big decisions to be resolved and standards to improve.

The Phuket envoys have nothing to gain from the consuls' meetings except a better Phuket for all. For them, there are no hefty property sales commissions or graft back-handers.

Without doubt, the greatest achievement of the gatherings so far is the spreading sense in the broader community that change is necessary.

Two years of talk have left officials in government departments in Bangkok and in the capital's embassies in no doubt about the problems of Phuket. And now, they are looking at solutions.

The honorary consuls have done their job. To all those who have the power to implement change, they have made the need for change plain, time and time again.

What remains less certain is whether those same points, well-made to a Democrat government, to the Foreign Ministry and to the Interior Ministry, need to be made all over again to the new Pheu Thai government.

The honorary consuls, and just as importantly their ambassadors, seem resolutely prepared to continue to pursue their goal of a better Phuket for all.

That's a worthy ambition for any innovation in 2011, 2012, or any year.

Innovation of the Year Winners

Phuket Innovation of the Year 2010 Phuket Tin Mine Museum, Kathu

Phuket Innovation of the Year 2009 Mediation Process, Phuket Provincial Court

Phuket Innovation of the Year 2008 Ao Po Grand Marina, Ao Po

Phuket Innovation of the Year 2007 Red Mountain Golf Course, Kathu

Comments

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"There's a continuing debate among some officials on the island. They cannot understand what motivates the international group."

And there is the crux of the problem. The officials on Phuket have no motivation to correct the ongoing problems.

Posted by Anonymous on December 17, 2011 20:32

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It is an extremely good thing that the HC have a quarterly meeting, however, not much good has really come out of it.

The message is clear - the Thai Authorities and those in power are quiet happy to leave things as they are, providing it produces money. Hell they even alter the Meetings Minutes to hide the level of problems.

The only result from these meetings is that the world is learning fast just how bad Phuket is. This in return is saving a lot of people from coming here and being ripped off.

As the Dutch Ambassador pointed out to Gov Tri, tourism is on the decline and it will get to a point where there will be no tourists. Once it does hit rock bottom there's not much chance of reviving the corpse.

So... the result? The death of tourism through greed and corruption.

Personally, I would say things have gotten a lot worse in the last few years.

Posted by Graham on December 18, 2011 12:30

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Thais can't understand if there's not a baht in it, dodgy or otherwise global international money ideas with local village logic is in play here. HC members, i salute you.

Posted by traveller on December 26, 2011 21:24


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