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Opinion: Road improvements to relieve Phuket’s traffic congestion

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Opinion: Road improvements to relieve Phuket’s traffic congestion | The Thaiger

Samak Luedwonghad, 48, is the director of the Phuket Highways Office, under the Department of Highways. Originally from Nakhon Sri Thammarat province, he graduated from Mahanakorn University of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He has been the director of the Phuket Highways Office since 2012.

Here, he talks about the ever-worsening traffic congestion on the island and how quick and efficient improvements to infrastructure can help to ease island-dwellers’ journeys and improve life on Phuket.

PHUKET: The number of tourists visiting Phuket and others moving here to work is steadily increasing. As a result, more and more vehicles are being driven on the island, which adds to the ever-worsening traffic congestion.

Improvements to Phuket’s infrastructure are therefore imperative, and the Department of Highways (DOH) must always be thinking ahead and working to solve the island’s traffic problems.

Phuket has about 370 kilometers of road: 200km of which belong to the DOH, about 120km belong to the Department of Rural Roads and 50km belong to local authorities.

Each year, we add an average of 4-5km of road. However, we much prefer to improve and develop the roads that we already have, rather than build new ones.

According to our research, if we do not upgrade Phuket’s infrastructure in the next five to 10 years, traffic congestion will become very serious at some of the island’s busiest locations, such as the Central Festival intersection, Samkong intersection by Tesco Lotus, Chalong Circle, Bang Ku intersection in Koh Kaew and the roads near Phuket International Airport.

As a result, the DOH has put a lot of energy and focus into improving Phuket’s roads, and budgets have been approved and awarded to carry out these improvements.

We have won approval for an underpass at Chalong Circle and Bang Ku Intersection, as well as a flyover at the Koh Kaew intersection, near the airport in Thalang and a new road that will provide a short cut from the T-junction near the airport to Pa Khlok.

We have seen a great decrease in traffic congestion at the new Darasamut Underpass near Central Festival Phuket since its completion earlier this year. We expect the underpass at the Samkong ntersection near Tesco Lotus will be finished by the end of this year and that it will also have a positive effect on congestion in that area.

We are now preparing to build the Chalong Circle and Bang Ku underpasses. The projects are now under auction, which means we are trying to find a contractor to take on the projects.

We expect they will break ground within three months. The other projects will begin once these are complete.

It often takes a long time to complete the projects, and often it seems as though things are not moving along very quickly. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, the geography of Phuket makes constructing and improving roads very difficult and it slows down the process. We must be very careful and precise during the construction phase to ensure that the roads are built safely and up to standard. This can also increase the price of the project.

The high price of land here is also a problem. The DOH has limited land on which to build infrastructure-related projects. Sometimes, it must expropriate land from private owners. This process is complicated and expensive, as many people – especially in Phuket – prefer to keep and use their land for their own benefit, rather than hand it over to the government. It takes time to negotiate with them.

It is important that everyone understands how necessary these roads and improvements are for Phuket, not only for smoother transportation for tourists and locals, but also to move the economy forward and improve overall lifestyle on the island.

Tourists will enjoy Phuket more if transportation were more convenient, and locals and expats can get where they need to go quicker, with more ease and less traffic.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused while these projects are undergoing construction. After the projects are complete, we hope that everyone is able to use the roads more efficiently.

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Opinion

Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION

The Thaiger

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Pattaya getting set for the Indian era – OPINION | The Thaiger

by Dan Cheeseman

I was a bit taken back by posters across the social networks where I shared the post that simply would not accept the Indians were bringing any value to Pattaya. Claiming Thailand would regret squeezing out the Western market and turning to the Chinese and Indians. It came across as sour grapes to me and also a delusion of grandeur from many of the Brits and Aussies that for some reason hold themselves on such a high global status.

I am a Brit and in the past probably have fallen victim to such delusions but am now refocused and aligned to the shift in the global market. I can see just how real this Chinese and Indian market has become and see no reason for it to not to continue growing.

According to Tourism Authority of Thailand, Indian arrivals into Thailand is expected to reach 5 million by 2023.

It is well documented what is happening in Thailand with the Chinese tourist and investor but still, the Indian market gets skirted over by many who refuse to accept anything other than the stereotypical images.

But they are wrong to do so and I think the winners in Pattaya will be those that embrace the Indian market as there is an increasing percentage who have good money in the pocket and are ready to spend it.

Just this week I was with a hotel developer and they exactly spoke of the shift in investors that parallel what we are seeing through tourism. They said before the Western market was good but now that has cooled, then the Russians came but that too has eased off; both due to changes in exchange rates from their end. Then the Chinese started to buy but as their exchange rates became less strong against the baht and getting money out of their country that slowed, but now has recovered somewhat.

He then said what others have also been saying, that the Indians were now becoming a very important market for selling too.

Whilst many restaurants are looking to target the F.I.T (Free Independent Traveller) Chinese tourist, I personally think the Indian tourist is a better fit for Western-type business in town.

Read the rest of the editorial HERE

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Opinion

OPINION: It’s time to go – Brexit

The Thaiger

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OPINION: It’s time to go – Brexit | The Thaiger

by Gill Parker

(The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners, staff or management of The Thaiger)

Adios, Au revior, Auf wiedersehen, Ha dee and Addio Europe. Breaking up is hard to do but we’re outta here.

Enough is enough. The British people voted to leave the European Union and that’s that. You can argue that the referendum was non-binding, or that there was misleading information peddled, by both sides, during the referendum campaign. But the British people made up their mind, a legal vote was held, and it’s time for the British parliament to honour the people’s wishes. Now.

Bring on October 31 and cut the apron strings, with or without a ‘deal’.

It’s urgent that the people of Britain are given the chance to move forward from this messy farrago that has embroiled British politics and conversation for the past four years. The polarised conversation, the ruination or families and friendships, and the incompetence of government to find a way to actually break away from the EU, has to stop.

Brexiteers or Remainers would all probably prefer that there was some sort of deal in place before October 31 but that looks doubtful, so just pull the plug and be done with it. The alternative? Another year of destructive argument, a repeat of ALL the same arguments and, likely, no better situation.

Leave the EU to sit and giggle, their arms folded watching the British people squirm, and let’s focus on future trade deals, re-linking with a world trading environment that has radically reshaped since the 2016 Brexit vote. Let’s have our politicians bicker about reviving an independent British economy, fixing up the NHS, galvanise a new approach to immigration and get people back to work.

If Britain continues to fiddle along, without a break, the economy will continue to suffer. Whilst there is no resolution, there is confusion. Businesses need clarity – currently there is little. Better we hit the ground hard on October 31 and then start to rebuild the British economy with assurance.

There is also acute concern that the hallmarks of the British democracy are being brought into question. The Head of State is being dragged into conversations and Constitutional conventions are being threatened. Testing these conventions could threaten the very fabric of everything we are trying to preserve.

Meanwhile the British Labour Party lacks leadership able to take on the cavalier PM who has made it clear, he wants out, “deal or no deal”, on October 31. The British prime minister has made his position abundantly clear, whilst the opposition is divided, seemingly rudderless, without any clear plan of its own how to move through the current impasse. They will surely suffer at the hands of voters when an election is called, and that will be soon.

There is plenty of work to do but with a clean break on October 31 we will at least be able to start that work – start planning for the future rather than looking back over our shoulder.

Deal or no deal, it’s time to go.

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Opinion

OPINION: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Brexit

The Thaiger

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OPINION: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into – Brexit | The Thaiger

OPINION: David Skelcey, Thailand

(The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners, staff or management of The Thaiger)

Whether you are British or not, it will be hard to escape yesterday’s news that British Prime Minister Johnson has been dealt a massive blow by the UK’s highest court over his decision to suspend parliament. The unanimous decision by no less than 11 judges has left ‘Remainers’ jubilant and ‘Leavers’ foaming at the mouth. In the judge’s opinion, misleading the Head of State, is unlawful and MPs will return to normal business in the house today.

Satire pages are already having fun with the news… ‘Queen invites Johnson to friendly meeting in Paris road tunnel’, while pro-Brexit pages are fuming with memes about democracy being betrayed and conspiracy theories that the judges have been bribed by the EU.

Three years after the referendum the country is more divided than ever. Friendships have been lost, family relationships have broken down, businesses have shipped out, our currency is crashing and the world looks on, slowly shaking its head in a mixture of disbelief, bewilderment and occasional amusement.

The Brexit referendum was called by Conservative PM David Cameron in 2016 and was brought about after decades of in-fighting in the party over the UK’s continued membership of the EU. A new threat had also emerged, with Nigel Farage, the millionaire stockbroker and his UK Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron was counting on the vote to be won for Remain, and campaigned for such, as did all the main parties officially.

But there was a spanner in the works. He was Mayor of London at the time and refused to take a side until the last minute, and his clever act of dithering about while he worked out which side his bread was buttered would later see him become Prime Minister Johnson.

True to his form of consistently lying to everybody about everything (check this BBC interview here), his previous career was as a journalist, where he spent twenty odd years writing fallacious stories about EU laws, along with many other sections of the press. Once he officially joined the Leave campaign he teamed up with arch-leaver and campaign director Dominic Cummings, a maverick who has never been elected but is now Johnson’s most senior special advisor.

It’s widely suspected he was responsible for the attempt to suspend parliament in order for Johnson to get the UK out of the EU by October 31st. “Do or die” as Johnson puts it – which basically means “with a deal or without a deal”. The ‘deal’ relates to trade, customs, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other countries of the EU (notably Spain).

Without a deal, no-one really knows what is going to happen, although according to Leavers, we got through two world wars and many years of prosperity before we joined the EU, so everything is going to be jolly spiffing and tip-top, like it was in the ‘good old days’. Britain is going to be Great again. (Sound familiar?)

For non-Brits who are struggling to keep up with this saga, don’t worry – most people at home are too. The twists and turns of this sorry tale are dizzying even for the most avid political observer and most of us have never seen such political turmoil in our lives. So how did it come about, and why should I even care about it if my family and I have expatriated ourselves to The Land of Smiles?

Well, I may be 10,000km away from the UK but only one metre away from my computer screen. My friends and family are still there, many of them running businesses. Our income comes from the UK and as the £/THB divide widens almost daily, our living costs are increasing constantly.

Although British tourist footfall in Thailand has been on the decline for years, it’s certainly not going to be revived anytime soon, and our own future here will be increasingly in doubt if the situation worsens further.

We’re into our third year living in Phuket now, and as relative newbies there has been a lot to learn. We’ve taken most of it in our stride – getting used to the roads, the customs and culture, and slowly learning the language at our Thai classes. But the thing that has thrown me the most is the political leanings of my fellow countrymen. And I say ‘men’ because they are all men, all white and all of a certain age (55+ ish), and are all apparently pro-Brexit. In my circles they are affectionately known as ‘gammons’ due to their pinkish, rotund features. I only know one British female here, who is a teacher at our kids’ school and is very much anti-Brexit.

This bears out with the voter demographic in the referendum. (Or neverendum as some like to call it.) Some very detailed analysis can be found here, but basically older people and those living in regional and rural areas mostly voted Leave, whilst younger voters and those living in metropolitan areas mostly voted Remain. It has been established that xenophobia had a big part to play in the Leave vote winning.

So I find it rather surprising that so many expats – essentially immigrants – choose to support the ‘pull up the drawbridge’ mentality of Brexit, having moved to a foreign country, setup businesses, married a local and had kids etc. Many of my European friends in the UK are leaving, and many of my UK friends in the EU are panicking, while expats here are throwing their arms up in the air about Thailand getting strict on their asses.

So why vote and support the same treatment for foreigners in your home country, especially when you’re not even there (and some haven’t been back for years)?

In my opinion, Britain has been sold a lie. Johnson has been rightly floored. This week I’ve been studying ASEAN trade agreements. Anyone who thinks switching to ‘No deal/WTO’ terms will be easy has never tried analysing tariff charts.

I hope the country can recover before we become the laughing stock of the world, if we are not already.

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