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Norway opens a Phuket consulate, a move others should contemplate

Phuket Needs More Nations Following Norway

Thursday, November 26, 2009
Phuketwan Opinion: Photo Album Above

A GROUP of prominent citizens greeted the opening of the Royal Norwegian Consulate on Phuket tonight with delight.

Rightly so. The newly-appointed Honorary Consul, Pornphan Sittichaivijit, has a full-time Consular Assistant, Sornpornwan Srikram, and five part-time helpers.

Norway's new consulate also has plenty of space. It's on the third floor of the MMB Building at 9/17 Moo 6, Thepkasattri Road, Phuket City.

The Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, attended the gathering, along with Ambassador Merete Fjeld Brattested, who is a frequent visitor to the island from Bangkok.

How beneficial it would be if Phuket had more consulates. Thousands of tourists would then have greater contact with officials who could help them directly, rather than attempting to conjure up assistance via overstressed or disinterested embassies in Bangkok.

Have you ever tried to call an embassy in Bangkok? If you are fortunate enough to be able to beat the telephone message in several languages, you will be extremely lucky to find help in a hurry.

Phuketwan's experience in contacting Bangkok embassies, (with one or two exceptions) is entirely negative. When people really need assistance, they need it close by.

People may say that the appointment of a new honorary consul for one country is hardly the time to argue a case for action by other countries. We would say, 'What better time is there?'

When the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004, citizens from the nations with honorary consulates on Phuket were much better served than those with embassies in Bangkok. It took Bangkok officials many hours, and in some cases days, to get here.

On an everyday basis, the number of tourists who visit Phuket justifies the presence of a greater number of consulates, and sensible upgradings of the kind tonight's celebration marked.

How will Phuket change for the better, from a tourist's point of view, unless there are people here who are using their eyes and ears to report what's happening?

Phuket's Governor, Wichai Praisa-ngob, was present at tonight's cheerful party. So was the Chief Justice of Phuket, Varangkana Sucharitakul, and the island's Chief of Police, Major Pikad Tantipong.

They will not be flying off to Bangkok in the morning to deal with other matters. They will be looking at Phuket's needs, and looking for advice on what tourists require from other people who are already on Phuket.

Those who listen to the needs of their constituencies on Phuket will continue to be powerful advocates for change on the island. Like it or not, Phuket happens to be uniquely different from the rest of Thailand.

Strangely, the British, the Australians and the Germans, all with large numbers of visitors to Phuket, make do with less than adequate representation and support on Phuket.

All three countries have large numbers of visitors coming to the Andaman, and inadequate representation.

Perhaps Australia, Britain and Germany are busier opening consulates in China or India, or other places where national interest dictaces they should have a presence.

What about Phuket?

We would argue that a country's representatives should be as close as possible to where their citizens are, which is why the Norwegian appointment deserves praise. It's an improvement that should be noted and followed by other nations.

The consulate is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Telephone: 076 237156 or e: norconpt@phuket.ksc.co.th

Comments

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@Editor: Just in case you did not notice, there is a German Honorary Consulate in Phuket for quite a few years now (before Tsunami times) and Mr Naumann is doing his job pretty well... Oh, and yes: it's open Monday to Friday.

Editor: Thanks Fritz. Yes, I know Dirk. I am not suggesting any of the honorary consuls don't do a good job, only that they could use more official help. Dirk is overseas for now, I have been told. In a perfect world, there would be someone here representing the needs of German tourists in his absence. Britain and Australia have hard-working hon cons, too. But I believe all three (Germany, Britain and Australia) need properly staffed diplomatic outposts on Phuket. There are probably other examples, too.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on November 27, 2009 10:31

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During the seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport last year, I tried for days to contact the French Embassy in Bangkok, by email, telephone and fax . A friend's mother couldn't leave due to the upset, and needed her regular medicines urgently.

I was shocked at the lack of help, no-one answered the phone, or replied to us in any way !!!! Needless to say, they weren't the only ones who had this problem, and complained to their government once home in France. Disgusting!

Posted by elizabeth on November 27, 2009 12:32

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The hard working honorary consuls do a lot of good work. But it is less honorary and more a normal business then one would think. You pay them with their fees for everything. So if the rental space and the number employees are small, but you have to wait not too long, it is maybe a good thing for the customers. But of course these HC are not build for disaster relief.

And they are never a diplomatic outpost more like a free market outsourcing of bureaucratic paper trail. A franchise as point of purchase for visa and similar stuff. The honorary consul gets some social sunshine of his nearly diplomatic status and some rain for having to help the really poor and needy and sometimes criminal fellas from home.

Posted by Lena on November 27, 2009 20:32


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