PHUKET OPINION: New market a boon for Old Phuket

PHUKET: The soft opening of the new municipal wet market in Phuket Town last weekend was a major achievement by the municipality, one that could mark an important turning point in its efforts to transform Old Phuket Town into a meaningful tourist destination.

Given the months of effort needed to convince the vendors to return to their old Ranong Rd site and to set up in the new building, Phuket Mayor Somjai Suwansupapana and her deputy, Watcharapong Anantrakul, will have real cause to celebrate at the official opening of the 280-million-baht market.

As with any major new development, there will be winners and losers. The main winners will be the residents of Phuket Town, who for the first time will be able to shop in a clean, attractive and reasonably-priced wet market – one with its own wastewater treatment facilities, a covered park, and a host of other amenities.

The contrast between the new market and the one it replaces could not possibly be more stark.

The old market had operated at the same site from its opening during World War II until its official condemnation six years ago. It was an eyesore and had been an appalling health hazard due to the unhygienic conditions that persisted there for at least two decades prior to the arrival of the wreckers’ balls.

The location of the market had been important until the early 1990s when the spread of development across the province began to cost Phuket Town its position as the island’s commercial center. But the new market could now propel the town into reclamation of that status.

The transport issue is key. For years the section of Ranong Rd in front of the market (and the Thai Airways regional office), has been the terminal for the public buses and songthaew plying the island’s public transport routes, allowing people from all over the province to get to the market, buy fresh meat and produce, and return the same way – without having to add to the city’s ever-increasing traffic problems.

The establishment of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization’s fleet of “pink buses” now extends access to the market to more people than ever, not just residents of Phuket Town but also those in large areas of Rassada and Wichit.

Among the losers are operators of Western-style supermarkets who will face competition for shoppers; vendors at the privately-run Downtown Market across the street; and the handful of holdout vendors either unwilling or unable to meet the terms required to take up stalls in the new market.

The biggest losers of all, however, will be the large populations of rats, cockroaches and other vermin that found the old market so hospitable.

Opinion

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