Army commander outlines new agenda for Phuket

PHUKET: The new Army Region 4 commander has announced his agenda for Phuket, ticking off a list of at least a dozen problems he feels need urgent resolution.

During his visit last week, Lt Gen Piyawat Nakwanit said that he was “generally satisfied with the state of tourism in Phuket”, but that getting rid of ‘powerful people’ and officers who unlawfully practice their duties would set Phuket on the path to progress.

“Our biggest priority should be to stop ‘mafia’ and other so-called ‘powerful people’ from using their influence to benefit themselves illegally at the expense of others. It is imperative that we get rid of these people,” said the general.

Several government and private sector officers joined the meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall, where the issues under discussion ranged from beach management, public transport management and public land encroachment, to human trafficking, immigration, illegal tour guides and security.

One of the major issues Gen Piyawat focused on was public land encroachment.

“This has been a long-standing issue in Phuket and we need to resolve it urgently. For instance, Surin Beach was declared as a Beach of Honor, so we have to take measures to keep it in its ‘virgin’ state. Cherng Talay OrBorTor has to take steps to resolve this,” said Gen Piyawat.

Last month, Cherng Talay OrBorTor President Ma-ann Samran announced plans to build a gate surrounding the beach as well as a walking street to allow local vendors to sell their wares there (story here).

“Encroachment is also prevalent at other Phuket beaches, including Laem Singh. There are about 33 more protected areas that officers must keep an eye on in order to prevent mismanagement and public land abuse,” Gen Piyawat added.

Another issue on the agenda was public transportation management and airport management. Gen Piyawat discussed a number of problem areas, such as driving licences, the dressing practices of public transport drivers, parking area management, checking the condition of vehicles and adjusting the prices of public transport.

The general added that every vehicle and driver to enter and exit the airport should be screened for security.

“Every driver must have a card and their information should be available with police for their records. The immigration checkpoint service also needs improvement – service must be fast and convenient, both outside and inside the airport. Effective solutions to these issues require that all officers help each other,” he said.

Gen Piyawat also appreciated the efforts of all Phuket officers, adding that he wanted Phuket to be a ‘model tourism province’ and that unless concrete steps were taken in the right direction, this would be difficult to achieve. Briefly, these included focusing on public benefit before anything else; coming together of all parties to solve problems; strictly checking and monitoring government officials for unlawful activities such as accepting tea money; and announcing promotional campaigns for public projects to inform local residents and tourists of progress on the island.

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong said he would do what’s in the island’s best interest.
“We have been working very hard to tackle all of these issues. I have just launched several projects to improve Phuket, including boosting cleanliness, sports activities for youth, waste management policies, and boosting security,” said Gov Norraphat.

“All of these will further the agenda of sustainable development of Phuket as an international city,” he added.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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