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Phuket remains a beautiful place but for how much longer?

Senator to Take Phuket's Problems to Bangkok

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
A PUBLIC INQUIRY by Senator Thanyarat Atchariyachai on June 18 heard what is wrong with Phuket from the island's top leaders. It is a catalogue of woe and a cry for help.

The senator, from Phuket, heard statements from the governor, the vice-governor, the TAT, the Phuket Tourism Association, the general manager of Phuket International Airport and others.

Most of it was exactly what the island's leaders have been telling Phuketwan over the past six months.

Essentially, there is no confidence that the island can continue to grow as a destination for tourists without serious threats to the standard of living of locals and lasting environmental destruction.

The key problems listed by the speakers were the degradation of the environment, garbage and waste disposal, bad water, traffic and roads, a budget out of kilter with the real population of Phuket, security, the capacity of the airport, and the number of Burmese workers.

It is shocking that the national government should be proposing the development of the 60 billion baht Ao Puhket megaproject amid this kind of profound discontent and concern.

Much of the problem, it seems to Phuketwan, lies with what is meant by ''sustaintable tourism'' or ''sustainable development.''

Some people, usually the greediest ones, interpret the phrase as ''let's keep developing until the island can't take any more.''

Others perhaps naively think that ''sustainability'' means maintaining a balance between tourism and nature.

But as the dolphins and the turtles have already vanished from the waters around the island, that interpretation is no longer valid.

As chair of the Upper House Committee on Tourism, Senator Thanyarat has been listening to what people connected to the industry have to say in a series of meetings along the Andaman coast.

On June 18 in Phuket, Governor Niran Kanlayanamid told the senator that Phuket's chronic problem was that the income for the island did not increase with the number of tourists or resident workers from other provinces.

Phuket should have the capacity to preserve its natural environment.

Garbage continued to be a problem, with only one old incinerator that could not burn all the trash the island produced. Burning was probably not good for the environment anyway.

Water, traffic, and the low number of police were long-standing problems, he said.

Suwalai Pinpradab, TAT regional director, told the senator that more than five million tourists came to Phuket last year, and more than eight million to Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi combined.

Tourism generated 9.4 billion baht in revenue on Phuket alone. Promotions were continuing in Europe and Asia and new markets, including Russia.

She said there was a need to preserve the natural beauty of Phuket in the face of dramatically increasing numbers of arrivals.

Maitree Narukatpichai, president of the Phuket Tourism Association, said that Phuket still had long-standing unsolved problems that were not being addressed.

There was not enough water, and not enough police to guarantee the safety of visitors. The budget from the national government was never sufficient to fix Phuket's problems because it was always based on a falsely low number of residents.

Traffic and trasport were also major issues.

Khun Maitree would like the senator to present the issues of Phuket's problems to the government as soon as possible. Phuket was capable of making substantial income for Thailand.

Khun Maitree said he could not understand why the government failed to address the problems.

The general manager of the airport, Wicha Nurnlop, told the senator that the airport had been constructed a long time ago and was relatively small compared to the growing number of visitors.

Now five billion baht in spending has been aprroved to enlarge the airport to cope with 15 million tourists. He expected that visitors will encounter problems as the airport grows and copes with larger numbers at the same time.

Khun Phurit Maswongsa, President of Business Tourism of Phuket, said the central government's budget was based on registered residents and had no relationship with the total number living on the island.

Adding more than five million tourists who used the infrastructre meant it was always going to be a losing struggle to keep up.

He would like the central government to make Phuket a special economic zone, like Pattaya and Bangkok. Then Phuket could address its own problems, he said.

In conclusion, Senator Thanyarat said that most of the issues related to infrastructure. She would take Phuket's issues to the central government.

She said she thought the island deserved a budget for special economic development.

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Wednesday January 19, 2022
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