Phuket locals pushback on RTN’s plan for base and airport expansion

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

Tensions are brewing in the Thai district of Phuket as around 100 local inhabitants have expressed their opposition to a strategy that would allow the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) to utilise the land for both an operational base and as a provision for the future growth of the neighbouring international airport.

The local populace recently passed a letter of protest to the provincial governor, championing a halt to the Third Naval Area Command (TNAC) efforts in securing an area within the Bang Khanoon forest park in the Thalang district.

The locals insist on a public hearing regarding the RTN’s intent to establish a fresh space for the 22nd Air Defence Battalion (ADB) and determine a space for the future expansion of Phuket International Airport.

On the first day of March, the TNAC was granted permission from the Royal Forest Department (RFD) to make use of approximately 3,700 rai of forest land situated in Tambon Sakhoo. In terms of the 22nd ADB, the RTN has suggested repositioning parts of its shore patrol units and Naval Military Police Regiment to the location.

Inspections revealed that the locals had reimagined the land as farms and erected residences.

Authorities met the residents on April 24 to guide them through the RTN’s development plan for the forest area.

Just last month, navy officials communicated warnings to the residents living in the area, expressing their intention to enclose the area for the use of TNAC and to put a stop to further encroachment.

Local MPs representing the Move Forward Party were previously asked to tour the area.

Upon the start of the week, the locals demanded the removal of a barbed-wire fence within a seven days period and requested a public hearing on TNAC’s plans.

The locals’ requirements were handed to the provincial governor’s office. Deputy Governor Anuparb Rodkwan was present to formally accept the letter.

The leader of the resident group, Uthai Suksirisamphan, urged the provincial governor to command the regional forestry office to revoke a forest encroachment charge lodged against residents with the Department of Special Investigation.

Furthermore, Uthai voiced that the navy should avoid labelling the residents as intruders.

Uthai conveyed that the resident’s jeopardy with the RTN escalated once the force was authorised by the RFD to access the land.

He made claims that RTN presence would result in militarising Phuket which could potentially undermine the local economy. Uthai said…

“We don’t want the military here.”

Conversely, Anuparb communicated his belief that a solution can be achieved which allows residents to maintain their farming and living on the land even as navy operations are being carried out, reported Bangkok Post.

Phuket NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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