Opinion: The evolution of Phuket Town

Don Limnunthaphisit, 52, is currently the president of the Old Phuket Town Community. He was born and raised in Phuket and graduated from Prince of Songkla University with a bachelor’s degree in science.

Here, he talks about the changes Phuket has been through, which drastically changed the lives of the local people. He also talks about what the ‘ideal’ version of Phuket would be in his opinion.

PHUKET: Our lives started to change when Phuket changed from a tin mining city into a tourist destination. People abandoned Phuket Town and moved to the beaches instead. Development and construction started to get bigger and bigger along the beaches.

This had a major impact on those who had shops in Phuket Town. A lot of people relocated their businesses away from the town, into the beach areas, as they had lost a lot of income due to the lack of customers.

The advent of shopping malls has had an even bigger impact on our lives. It started off with local malls such as Ocean Mall and the Phuket Shopping Mall. Then came the bigger chains like Robinson, Tesco Lotus, and Central Festival, among others.

This was a huge blow to locals who sold the same merchandise in their shops. Those who couldn’t survive had to close shop and find other ways to get by.

The changes did not stop here. As tourism boomed, the cost of living kept rising, especially the price of land. This ultimately meant higher prices for everything else too – food, clothes and other products and services. It also brought an influx of labor from other provinces.

As the number of people increased, problems such as traffic jams and congestion erupted, something that Phuket had never seen before. It also led to other man-made problems such as uncontrollable trash, wastewater, water shortages, crime, drug abuse and accidents, which is all you see in the news these days.

To some extent, the beauty and charm of Phuket Old Town remains unaffected by the developments on the beach. Our way of life is quiet, but we still enjoy it. However, what tourists get to see now is a mere shadow of what Old Phuket Town was originally like.

I am not blaming these changes – change is inevitable, and we must learn to adjust our lives accordingly. Additionally, these changes have also brought in a lot of money for Phuket and Thailand.

What I regret, though, is that Phuket Town has never had a chance to use that money to become what it should be.

Phuket has a lot of local authorities, such as municipalities and OrBorTors, but there is a great deal of income disparity within the municipalities themselves.

For instance, the Mai Khao OrBorTor makes considerable money from the big hotels there. However, they do not have a trash incinerator, so all their waste is managed by the Phuket City Municipality, which earns much less income from hotels. This results in a trash overload there, and the municipality doesn’t have enough money to build a new incinerator.

Another example is the waste treatment plant in Rassada Municipality. The municipality does not have the budget to carry out repairs and has submitted a request to the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (PPAO), which in turn has asked the provincial government, which is waiting to hear from the central government. In the meantime, our people are suffering from bad smells and unhealthy living conditions.

Phuket still has to submit all its revenues to the central government, which will then allocate a portion of the country’s total revenue back to us, depending on the registered population, which is about 350,000. This doesn’t seem fair, as there are countless tourists and other unregistered citizens in Phuket.

My suggestion is to combine these municipalities and hand over the control and responsibility to one person, who can then manage the budget for each area. We should also be allowed to use the money we earn ourselves. That would be the ideal way to run things, in my opinion.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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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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