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Phuket's conference centre for Mai Khao, later modified, now axed

Phuket Convention Centre Axed: Phuket MPs, Officials Respond Angrily

Friday, October 19, 2012
Phuket News Analysis

PHUKET: The killing of the Phuket International Convention and Exhibition Centre project has been confirmed with angry Phuket MPs and tourism industry officials attacking ''government lies''.

Some say it's a sign that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, like many before her, is only interested in Phuket for the revenue from tourism and will not spend on essential infrastructure.

Insiders now acknowledge that without real investment, Phuket's future appeal to tourists is becoming short-term and increasingly uncertain.

The revelation that Cabinet cancelled the Phuket Convention and Exhibition Centre at its meeting on October 2 comes on a day when plans were announced for Pattaya to gain a 10 billion baht private ''superpark.''

Phuket has lived in hope of obtaining the conference and exhibition centre for two decades. Now it is going to Chiang Mai.

In Singapore, where a Phuket team is selling Phuket to neighboring countries at ITB Asia, Bhuritt Maswongsa, Vice President of the Phuket Tourism Association, said the axing of the 2.6 billion baht project was ''another sign that this government really doesn't care.''

In Parliament in Bangkok yesterday, Phuket Democrat Opposition MPs Anchalee Thepabutr and Rewat Areerob accused the government of breaking its promises and misleading the people of Phuket.

''Having the centre vanish is a huge loss to Phang Nga and Krabi as well as Phuket,'' Khun Anchalee said. ''The whole of the Andaman will suffer.''

The commitment in March by PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Cabinet to the centre and a large number of much-needed Phuket infrastructure projects appears to be diminishing as each week passes.

In Singapore, Khun Bhuritt said: ''The government seems to ignore the three elements that Phuket's tourist future requires - safety, security and sustainability.

''Phuket is one of the most important provinces in Thailand when it comes to driving revenue but we number about 77th - at the very bottom - when it comes to the government spending on infrastructure.''

Analysts and insiders Phuketwan spoke to today agreed that the blue-sky optimism of Phuket's boosters was based on ignorance, not facts.

''It's true that the number of incoming tourists continues to rise for now,'' said Khun Bhuritt. ''But so does the unsolved mountain of garbage and the water pollution problem at Phuket beaches.''

He neglected to add lack of a public transport system and the chronic high taxi and tuk-tuk fares that continue to force locals and visitors to use their own motorcycles and cars to gridlock Phuket roads.

Even former Democrat Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva - no help to Phuket when it comes to essential infrastructure - went on Facebook to criticise his replacements for failing to back the convention centre.

''Those who see Phuket as a thriving place with a certain future are ignoring the tell-tale signs,'' Khun Bhuritt said.

''National governments have constantly failed Phuket. The shifting of the conference and exhibition centre to Chiang Mai is yet another warning: short-term political gains eventually come at a cost.''

Informed observers see the advent of the Asean economic community in 2015 as the point at which lack of strategy and unsustainability is likely to end Phuket's run as a popular international holiday destination, especially with pristine Burma emerging so fast as a low-cost nearby alternative.

''Singapore is such a wonderful example to Phuket,'' Khun Bhuritt said. ''Everything done here is aimed at efficiency and sustainability. But it's a model that the national government in Thailand continues to ignore.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


The reason is simple. The Shinawatra's base is Chiangmai and Phuket is a Democrat stronghold.

Posted by cammo on October 19, 2012 09:18


So that means, by using their infallible execution of process, the beloved ex Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also did nothing as well.

So many have made promises about how Phuket will and should be, and nothing ever comes out of it.

Posted by Tbs on October 19, 2012 09:33


Phuket does NOT need an Exhibition/conference centre, the money could have been used on so much more, tourists DO NOT come to Phuket for a conference or exhibition and holds little, if any, interest to locals. I think the only people crying over the loss of the Exhibition/Conference Centre, are those who thought they would make money from it.

Posted by dbate_me on October 19, 2012 09:35


At least the turtles can come and lay their eggs in peace. The babies survival rates are just about as rare as their chance to mature.
Phuket is losing its flavor, it's only good for revenue, not money wasting infrastructure.

Posted by Dun on October 19, 2012 09:38


i would hardly call a convention centre 'essential infrastructure'..
good riddance - the money already wasted could have been better spent!!

Posted by another steve on October 19, 2012 09:59


Seems that the location near the sea was prohibitive, thankfully. Why not buy up some of that cow grazing land in the middle of of Thalang then design and implement a green building ? A convention centre is a good idea to diversify from tourist dependent business and get visitors in slower seasons

Posted by CBF on October 19, 2012 10:41


Affordable public transport, adequately staffed police force, reliable water and electricity supply.

Those can be called essential infrastructure. A convention center is not.

Glad it was axed. No need for more white elephants like the Phuket Gateway.

Posted by Andrew on October 19, 2012 12:12


"another sign that this government really doesn't care" very very good choice, because first Phuketians must be take care by themselves... after, and only after government should take care..

Posted by dave on October 19, 2012 12:37


Seems to me that Chiang Mai would be a more user friendly city to have such a venue. As the article states, the existing trash and transportation problems are quite real and are for ever being ignored, along with the water pollution situation. At least Chiang Mai has more than one thoroughfare to enter and exit the city. And as one poster has mentioned, the only people that really seem to be unglued here are those that won't be getting any so called side or palm money. I have been to Chiang Mai on many occasions and have never had a problem with anything.

Posted by Ted Davis on October 19, 2012 12:42


Phuket is hardly a province that should complain about the lack of money for infrastructure projects. At the end of the day they are free to manage their budgets on they own and to invest in something they consider important by themselves.

Posted by JakubP on October 19, 2012 12:56


Fix what is broken before building more to add to the problems of waste mountains, sewage pollution and traffic congestion. As many state, the convention center is not needed.

Posted by Logic on October 19, 2012 13:08


Wise decision. Phuket absolutely does NOT need any more massive building projects at this time. Garbage disposal, sewage, and water supplies are massive problems, and so is crime, especially the thug-thug taxi mafia and other scams based on official corruption. All the problems have one root: too much development, too fast, with no thought but the greed of rich developers. So it's great that this project is cancelled. There should be no new building on Phuket until the garbage and sewage problems are sorted out. We are literally swimming in garbage and sewage already; we don't need more.

Posted by PeteC on October 19, 2012 13:27


''Singapore is such a wonderful example to Phuket,'' Khun Bhuritt said. ''Everything done here is aimed at efficiency and sustainability. But it's a model that the national government in Thailand continues to ignore.''

Ain't that the truth, but you have to consider that Singapore is vastly superior in terms of social development and with very little corruption.

When (IF) Thailand every grows up then maybe it learn the true benefits of a society that works for the greater good and not just the greedy few.

Posted by Graham on October 19, 2012 17:57

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