Governor’s Letter: Resolving conflicts between Thais and foreigners

PHUKET: Phuket Governor Dr Chokchai Dejamornthan is the island’s 47th governor. Originally from Chachoengsao, he holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Christian University of Thailand, a master’s in Social Development from the National Institute of Development Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in Law from Thammasat University.

Here, he talks about resolving conflicts between Thais and foreign tourists on the island.

In terms of tourism, I believe Phuket people are going in a better direction. I can see that we have improved our services and developed a more welcoming attitude toward tourists. However, as we saw recently, there have been some violent altercations between tourists and Thai people.

As regards Thai people causing trouble, I have asked the police to keep a close eye on such incidents. Anyone who instigates or is involved in violence must face the appropriate punishment. Anything that is against the law must be dealt with justly. I especially want to crack down on mafia activities. We have worked very hard to improve the reputation of Phuket by getting rid of illegal taxis and solving beach management issues.

In the recent incident, it was reported that one of the Thai people was hospitalized. I want to discourage such incidents from both parties. As soon as I came to hear of this, I talked to the concerned consulate to make sure that we all work together on the issue. Moreover, I asked them to make sure that any speech or statement they make is not biased against Phuket. They cannot always blame it on Thais; we must be fair to everyone. The image of Phuket gets tarnished if we are unnecessarily blamed for all such incidents.

There are both good tourists and bad ones. What we must do is to make sure that we work together and form partnerships. I have spoken to several of the consuls in Phuket, who are just as keen to do that. The Australian consul, for instance, is very professional and helpful. If any such incidents occur in the future, we have both promised to talk directly to each other before releasing any statements. We have made a similar arrangement with the Chinese consul as well. I intend to have this discussion with other consuls as soon as possible.

We have also approached the Phuket offices of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to collaborate with us on a process of screening tourists in the future.

As far as the zero baht tours are concerned, we have already started cracking down on them. I believe that in the future we will have a lot more quality tourists coming to the island. I can see that our tourist numbers are increasing. However, at this stage, we are not focusing on the number of tourists, but rather on the quality.

The most important thing is that our nation is now in a mourning period, and I wish to see Thai people keeping calm. I want to maintain peace at all times. We are doing public relations activities to encourage local people to be good hosts and to approach the authorities [when conflicts arise] instead of taking matters into their own hands.

I understand that sometimes people act out of anger, but once you have lost your temper and done something to cause harm to others, you will be arrested and have to face the consequences.

During the past few weeks, I have read through a lot of projects which are slated to start on the island. For instance, we have finished drawing up plans for the Tah Chat Chai checkpoint and I am now working on securing the budget for it. We will release more information on this later, but I expect to sign the contract next month.

Another thing we have to work on is land encroachment and the smart city project. I want to expedite the project to have free WiFi throughout the island. These are not new projects; they have already been tabled and discussed. However, I want to make sure that I actually make things happen during my time here on the island.

— Chutharat Plerin


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