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Ao Phuket project given top-level green light

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has given the green light to the Ao Phuket development plan, a 100-billion-baht megaproject on 3,000 rai of reclaimed land that would include a convention center, marina and other facilities.

The latest movement in the Ao Phuket plan, first conceived over two decades ago, follows from PM Samak’s assigning responsibility for the project to the the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA), a public organization under the direction of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports established in 2005 under the first Thaksin government.

Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit met with DASTA’s Ao Phuket working committee at the Phuket Merlin Hotel on May 2.

The Ao Phuket committee, accompanied by DASTA chairman Gen Soonthorn Khumkomkul, earlier that morning traveled to the waterfront to view the intended project site, which stretches across Phuket Bay all the way from Saphan Hin to Rassada Harbor.

Also attending the meeting were representatives from Phuket City Municipality, the Tourism Authority of Thailand South Region 4 Office in Phuket, the Phuket Tourist Association, Muang District Office, Rassada and Wichit municipalities and other agencies.

PM Samak in March 2008 authorized the DASTA to take responsibility for areas it deems as appropriate for “sustainable” tourism development.

Rajathin Syamananda, who heads DASTA’s Ao Phuket project committee, is well acquainted with the project as a former director-general of the Interior Ministry’s Town and Country Planning Department.

Allowing DASTA to develop the project meant it could be fast-tracked, he said.

“As we have full authority from the government, we can pass the project proposal on for Cabinet much more easily,” said K. Rajathin.

Before the Ao Phuket project was put on hold following the coup, responsibility for it fell to the Town and Country Planning Department, who put a 63.5 billion baht price tag on the designs it drew up.

That plan in many ways resembled a spectacular 130-billion-baht plan plan put forward for the project in 2005 by Japanese construction specialist Umezawa Tadao – except that the Japanese design called for a “floating city”, not one on reclaimed land.

“The most important aspect of this development will be environmental and natural resource conservation, and ensuring that it improves the lives of local people,” he said.

Extensive land reclamation in the shallow Phuket Bay, into which most of the wastewater from Muang and Kathu districts flows, would not impede drainage there, he said.

Other infrastructure aspects including traffic, wastewater treatment and power supply needs have been carefully considered and quantified, he said.

K. Rajathin is confident that the Town and Country Planning Department’s plan, if allowed to go forward under DASTA’s management, would attract a good deal of foreign investment and benefit both Phuket and Thailand.

DASTA’s role will be to co-ordinate the efforts of the many government agencies involved and present the project to potential investors. After the previous Ao Phuket committee first posted information about the plan back in 2003, there was a great deal of interest from investors in Canada, Japan, China and Thailand, he said.

“Now that DASTA is fully authorized to lead the project, it will not fail again. We will work as quickly as possible to iron out all the legal and investment issues so that it can move forward,” he said.

The DASTA committee will re-evaluate the plan put forward by the previous committee in light of changing conditions, he said.

Not expected to change would be the project’s two main attractions: a marina and facilities for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions, or MICE.

The MICE facilities would comprise: “Phuket Arena”, a 40,000-square-meter convention center with the capacity to host events for up to 15,000 people; two exhibition areas of 60,000 and 30,000 sqm each; a 40,000-sqm business center with space for 100 businesses to rent; a 1,000-room hotel complex; and a 60,000 sqm shopping center featuring shopping malls, souvenir shops, restaurants, cinemas and other facilities.

The circular, 690-rai marina development to the south would include berthing facilities for superyachts, hundreds of slips for smaller vessels, a retail and commercial center, repair and maintenance facilities, and apartment or condominium blocks.

On the economic front, K. Rajathin said the original cost estimate of 63.5 billion baht when the plans were drawn up might no longer be practical.

The total price tag would probably hit 100 billion baht, he said.

To begin, an initial budget of 4.9 billion baht would be needed from the government. The project could generate 19.5 billion baht in revenue annually once it is completed, he said.

Governor Niran said he was in total agreement with the plan. His idea to establish an international convention center on Treasury Department land in Mai Khao was launched on the assumption that the Ao Phuket project would never move forward, he told the committee.

 

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

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket visitor Covid-19 rapid antigen testing may end May 15th

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Covid-19 rapid tests may be discontinued in Phuket. (via Wikimedia)

In a live broadcast interview, Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong said they will consider discontinuing Covid-19 rapid antigen testing for people arriving into Phuket after May 15th. The interview from the Phuket Check Point at Tha Chatchai yesterday seems to contradict a recent statement from the governor launching the rapid tests from today.

Entry to Phuket since April 22nd has been limited for travellers from red zone provinces, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours. Anyone arriving without either of these would be screened on the spot with rapid antigen tests. Though originally offered for 300 baht per person, controversy arose over Thailand’s 2-price system as it was announced that testing would be free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

The National Health Security Office provided 40 billion baht for testing in Phuket, allowing free testing for nationals, but as that funding is used up, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew announced that the testing will no longer be free for Thai people after May 15th. Phuket does not have the budget for free rapid antigen testing so they will likely be forced to require payment after that date.

The current testing has seen a decline in positive Covid-19 infections, not finding any new cases for several days, prompting the government to rethink whether the current system of rapid testing those who are not vaccinated or holding a recent negative test certificate is worth the money spent. Over 40,000 people have been tested since the program began April 22nd until the current figures on May 5th, with only 22 covid infections identified. Furthermore, 5 of those infections turned out to be false positives.

The vice-governor conceded that Phuket has Covid-19 outbreak problems with growing infections every day, but explains that the infections are from within the community and not from outside visitors. The latest infections stem in large part from gambling get-togethers without proper Covid-19 safety.

As of now, the rapid antigen testing will continue until the May 15th cut off, but government officials are still debating whether to continue testing and whether funding will exist for it after that date. The NHSO has recently hinted that they will approve more funds to continue testing, a signal that had not been received before the governor’s announcement on Wednesday about the rapid antigen testing.

The vice-governor stressed that the situation is constantly evolving and that new information it’s shared frequently, and often out of local control. He urges everyone to pay attention to forthcoming announcements.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Thailand

Phuket to rollout rapid Covid-19 testing campaign for visitors

Tanutam Thawan

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Photo via Flickr

A rapid Covid-19 antigen testing campaign for visitors to Phuket is being rolled out to quickly detect cases in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. The island province is set to reopen to foreign tourists in July, that is if the virus is contained and if at least 70% of the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The rapid testing campaign will start today and go until May 15. Visitors from Krabi, Ranong, Trang, and Phatthalung will be tested, according to deputy Phuket governor Piyapong Choowong. After May 15, those entering Phuket through official checkpoints will under Covid-19 tests funded by the National Health Security Office.

If daily new Covid-19 infections are more than 20 after the rapid testing campaign ends next week, then local officials will impose stricter disease control measures to help contain the virus.

In the recent wave of infections over the past month, there have been 493 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Phuket with 229 currently in treatment, according to the chief of the provincial public health office, Koosak Kookiattikul. To help contain Covid-19 in Phuket, the governor has also ordered local officials to find at-risk groups and carry out active case finding campaigns.

Despite the recent Covid-19 outbreak, Phuket is still scheduled to reopen under the so-called sandbox model, allowing foreign tourists who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel to the island without undergoing quarantine. A mass vaccination campaign is being rolled out on the island province in an effort to vaccinate 70% of the population, reaching herd immunity, by the end of June. Expats in Phuket with a valid work permit will be able to register for a vaccine starting next week.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Tourism

Tourism Minister says Phuket must reach zero infections before July re-opening

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr

The Tourism and Sports Minister insists the southern island of Phuket must record zero Covid-19 cases if a planned July re-opening is to go ahead. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn adds that, should new infections be reported once 70% of the island is vaccinated, the Tourism and Public Health Ministries will work together to decide what action to take.

Tourism operators in Phuket are desperately clinging to the hope that the island’s July re-opening will go ahead, with many businesses seeing it as their last chance. The so-called “sandbox model” would see the island reopened to vaccinated foreign tourists without mandatory quarantine. Phiphat says tourism officials hope to attract between 3 and 4 million international visitors.

The Bangkok Post reports that in the last quarter of the year, the model will be extended to other parts of the country, including Phang Nga, Krabi, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.

“We have to speed up inoculations, particularly in Bangkok, to achieve herd immunity by the fourth quarter. The number of daily infections should be below 200 by the end of this month to restore international tourism confidence.”

Given that many people may need a lot of persuasion to travel, particularly if it means mandatory quarantine once they get home, there may be some raised eyebrows at the government’s decision to charge foreign arrivals a 300 baht “tourism fee”. Yes, you read that correctly…

Phiphat says that particular initiative will launch in January, with the proceeds used to create a fund to help the tourism industry survive any future calamities. He calculates that if Thailand gets 20.8 foreign tourists in 2022, the fund will have 6.2 billion baht to future-proof the sector.

According to the Bangkok Post, once Thailand gets its Covid-19 outbreak under control officials plan to re-open travel bubble discussions with neighbouring countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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