Cabinet to see duty-free zone plan next month

PHUKET: The Customs Department is to present plans to set up a duty-free zone in Phuket to the Cabinet next month.

Six companies have expressed an interest in running the zone, which would sell duty-free or reduced-duty goods to tourists.

The news came after a meeting yesterday at the governor’s mansion, chaired by the Chief of Customs in Phuket, Surachart Janthawatcharagorn, and attended by business people such as former Phuket City mayor Phummisak Hongsyok.

K. Surachart said the proposal to create a duty-free zone for tourists was in line with the Government’s stated aim of making Phuket a “shopping paradise” like Singapore and Hong Kong.

The draft plan proposes that only private companies that can prove they have registered capital of more than 100 million baht and can provide a suitable site and buildings will be considered to run the zone.

K. Surachart said it was important that the contract go to a company with considerable capital, as this would guarantee that the shops were well stocked and the investment would demonstrate the company’s commitment to the zone, since it would not be easy to abandon such an investment.

He said that the plan envisages most goods in the duty free zone being sold free of customs duty; in cases where duty had to be charged, it would be lower than usual, so that the price would be lower than elsewhere.

It has not yet been decided whether Thai tourists would be allowed to shop in the zone. If they are, he said, the government would have a choice of three possibilities. The first was that they be allowed to buy goods in the zone if they stayed in Phuket for more than two days; the second was to let them shop there just twice a year, and the third was to allow them unlimited shopping.

However, K. Phummisak warned that opening the zone up to Thai tourists could bring an influx of people from other provinces into Phuket and this could cause many problems.

The six companies that have expressed an interest in running the zone are the Central group, Jungceylon, King Power (which runs duty-free shops in most of Thailand’s international airports), K. Phummisak’s Chao Fa City, Wang Thalang and Phamonkij Witsavakram.

The Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) has backed Phamonkij Witsavakram to refurbish the abandoned Lucky Complex at Saphan Hin and run it as a duty-free plaza for 25 years, but this plan has yet to be considered by the Customs Department.

Phuket News
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