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Big Phi Phi meeting makes small progress

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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KOH PHI PHI DON: Some 200 local people attended a meeting on Saturday with Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop and a passel of senior government officials.

They were hoping for solutions to many tsunami-related problems, especially an end to the ban on building permanent structures, but came away shaking their heads in disappointment at the continuing lack of progress.

Phankam Kitithorakul, Chairman of the Ao Nang Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor), the local authority responsible for the Phi Phi Islands, told the Gazette that he was unhappy with the result of the meeting.

It was the same as all the previous meetings held to discuss Phi Phi’s future, he said – a lot of talk but no decisions.

“I expect that the next meeting, scheduled for January 27, which will be chaired by the Governor of Krabi, will also result in no progress,” K. Phankam added.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am, but did not get underway until DPM Suwat’s helicopter touched down just before 11 am.

The Deputy PM ordered the Director-General of the Marine Department, Tawanrat Onsira, to speed up the rebuilding of the pier at Phi Phi but heard that, despite the passage of a year, the department had yet to receive satisfactory bids for the 200-million-baht project.

Nonetheless, he took the opportunity to admonish local longtail boatmen, saying, “After the new pier is finished, boatmen here must do things in a much more orderly and safe way – such as picking up tourists and delivering them at the pier.

“We must turn back Phi Phi back into a paradise for tourists, so there must be no more mooring of boats along the beach, as there is now,” he said.

DPM Suwat also ordered the Organization for Specific Areas Administration for Sustainable Tourism Promotion (OSAASTP) to speed up construction of evacuation routes on Koh Phi Phi Don, saying that when this job was complete, “everything can start”.

He appeared to step back from the original government announcement that no rebuilding would be allowed, ever, on the low-lying land between Ton Sai Bay and Loh Dalam Bay.

“We banned construction,” he explained, “because we were worried that if we announced that people could start rebuilding, they might [block] areas through which we plan to have evacuation routes.”

The Director of the Organization for Specific Areas Administration for Sustainable Tourism Promotion (OSAASTP), Dr Salawud Chiayowan, said that it would take another six months of planning before work could begin on the evacuation routes. On hearing this, the crowd booed.

But when DPM Suwat insisted that planning be completed within a month, the crowd cheered.

Representatives of the boatmen asked the Deputy PM to waive the national park fee imposed on those visiting Maya Bay, because, they said, the number of tourists had gone down since it was introduced. The fee was recently increased to 200 baht per head for foreigners.

However, the Director-General of the National Park, Wildlife and Plants Conservation Department, Damrong Phidet – whose officials have been particularly zealous in their collection of the fee – said that if the fee were waived for Maya Bay, then fees would have to be waived for all national parks throughout Thailand.

DPM Suwat waved off further questions, saying, “I will leave the problem of permanent housing for tsunami victims, the evacuation route, and water and electricity supply to the next meeting with the Governor of Krabi on January 27.”

He then checked out the still unreconstructed pier before heading back to his helicopter.

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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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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand targeting specific Chinese provinces for “tourism bubble”

Jack Burton

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Thailand targeting specific Chinese provinces for “tourism bubble” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Travelwire News

Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports says his ministry will target specific provinces in China in a bid to attract tourists back to the resort island of Phuket as travel restrictions are gradually eased. Pipat Ratchakijprakarn says the ministry will not splash out money launching a tourist campaign all across China but rather target some of the many provinces that have brought Covid-19 under control.

He didn’t specify which provinces, but said Phuket is being eyed to lead the planned “tourism bubbles” comprising Thailand and its selected partners. The primary target is selected Chinese cities and provinces.

“China is the first market with potential, because flying time to Thailand is less than six hours.”

Other markets being discussed include South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and some south east Asian countries.

Before the pandemic, 1 in every 4 foreign visitors to Thailand was Chinese. There were almost 40 million foreign arrivals last year.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers

Jack Burton

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Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

Officials have raided 2 Phuket casinos resulting in 87 people being arrested for allegedly gambling after the island’s provincial police received complaints of gambling dens operating around the clock – a violation of the current Emergency Decree which bans crowds.

The first raid took place at about 3:30 pm and was at a casino in tambon Talat Nua of Muang district. The premises provided parking spaces for motorcycles and up to 30 cars, and was fenced on all sides with metal sheets. Officials arrested 45 gamblers-30 men and 15 women. They also seized 62,420 baht that was placed as wagers and a gold necklace that was 15 grams in weight.

Around the same time, a second team raided another casino tambon Sisunthon of Thalang district in Phuket’s north. It was also fenced with metal sheets and featured an ample amount of parking space. 42 people- 22 men and 20 women- were rounded up with police seizing 64,260 baht in placed wagers.

All have been charged with illegal betting and violating the Emergency Decree which was recently extended through July.

Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today

Jack Burton

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Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today | The Thaiger

Today is the official reopening of Phuket’s famous (or infamous) “Soi Bangla” nightlife district, but only about 20% of venues say they’re reopening during this early stage. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced yesterday that all night entertainment venues may reopen but must strictly adhere to health guidelines set out to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the CCSA, says night entertainment venues, including pubs, bars, karaoke venues and beer gardens will be allowed to open, but only until midnight. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and customers must use the Thai Chana app to check in and out.

The Patong Entertainment Business Association president says only about 20% of the 324 registered members are expected to reopen initially, but he expects more to reopen soon. Among the 22 rules announced last week- to be presented to the CCSA for approval- were that all staff must wear face masks and face shields, but performers may wear face shields only. No bottles are to be served, and all drinks are to be served in glasses. No pool table games (including snooker and billiards) and no dart games are to be allowed.

The number of guests in each venue is to be restricted to cater for social distancing, with at least 2 metres between tables, or partitions must be installed to ensure patrons are seated at least one metre away from each other.

Undercutting the main reason people visit popular venues, the draft rules also call for groups to be limited to 5 people, and for guests to be prohibited from dancing and singing, gathering, shouting, or “wandering around the premises”.

“I have no idea what the rules will be, but we will open anyway. If the full list of 22 rules for pubs, bars and entertainment venues is to be applied, we won’t be able to enforce all the rules, because enforcing all these rules is impossible. But we can follow some of the rules, such as social distancing, wearing masks and checking temperatures.”

Even Patong’s mayor told The Phuket News that she is yet to receive a copy of all the rules to be enforced.

“The next thing to do is follow up with the CCSA about the rules. This is very important for the entertainment industry in Patong. I will help and consider being flexible with the rules for entertainment businesses in Patong, because the rules announced by CCSA are the general rules for many places. But some of these rules are not appropriate for businesses here. We have to apply the right rules and optimise them for businesses in Patong.”

The PEBA president dismissed a few entertainment zones being singled out in other countries as “hotbeds for starting a second wave” of Covid-19 infections.

“I do not care what some people claim is the risk of being in a bar. If the government is genuinely concerned about the risk of Covid-19 spreading, then it is not just about bars, pubs and entertainment venues. The risk of Covid-19 spreading applies anywhere where people are around, not only at bars and pubs.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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