Confusion over Chinese role in mega project

PHUKET CITY: Some two weeks after it was reported that Thai Longstay Management Corp Ltd (TLM), a private company 30% owned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), signed a 40-million-baht “primary contract” with a Chinese state-owned enterprise to help develop part of a long-stay project at Saphan Hin, Phuket Vice-Governor Niran Kanlayanamitr, head of the provincial committee for the Ao Phuket project, said he knew nothing about it.

The developer, China No 17 Metallurgical Construction Corp, was reported to have inked a deal, along with five other local and international marketing agencies, to build and sell a project called “Phuket Bay International City”.

However, Vice Governor Niran could not confirm whether the project the Chinese developer was involved in is the same Ao Phuket project that has been on the provincial government’s drawing board for the past two decades, despite the descriptions of the two projects sharing remarkable similarities.

The original Ao Phuket project, now almost 20 years in the conceptual realm, would be built on reclaimed land off Saphan Hin and would include hotels, meeting and conference facilities, shopping areas, a marina and an “IT city” that planners hope will lure high-tech businesses from around the world.

According to a report in The Nation, TLM’s “Phuket Bay International City” is to be a long-stay resort located within Saphan Hin, designed as a complex that would include a conference center, single-story houses, condominiums, a shopping center and a marina.

A common point that Vice Governor Niran could confirm, however, was that the Treasury Department was chosen as the “owner” of the project at an August 16 meeting at Government House in Bangkok, chaired by caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop.

The Nation report said, “The land to be developed is owned by the Treasury Department, but Phuket province and the Civil Works Department are directly responsible for overseeing the project.”

“There were two government agencies that the board considered; one was the Designated Areas For Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) and another one was the Treasury Department,” Vice Governor Niran said.

The committee chose the Treasury Department because of its superior financial management capabilities, which are suitable for such a large-scale project, Vice Governor Niran said.

The department intends to create a new asset management company that would be solely responsible for the project, he added.

However, Vice Governor Niran said that the Ao Phuket Development Board – at least to his knowledge – had yet to decide whether the project, once built, would be managed by the government or a private sector organization.

“The office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) still needs to develop the master plan and present it to Cabinet for approval before the project can move forward,” he said.

Phuket News

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