PATONG: Deputy Prime Minister Pitak Intrawitayanunt, who is also Minister for Tourism, conducted an inspection tour of Patong on foot last night to investigate the possibility of converting part of the beach road and all of Soi Bangla into a pedestrian zone at weekends. The proposed L-shaped zone would cover about 1.5 kilometers of road, starting from the Phuket Cabana Resort on Thaweewong Rd, running south along the beachfront and then turning east along the entire length of Soi Bangla. “I think Soi Bangla is suitable for this because there are many tourists here. They want to walk along the road without the dust and smoke from vehicles. In addition, shops would be able to sell more goods and it could become another attraction that would help support Phuket’s tourism,” said K. Pitak. He explained that he’d like to see more pedestrian streets in Phuket because the province generates a great deal of income from tourism, on which the Thai economy relies heavily. The inspection tour follows an experiment that started three weeks ago in Bangkok, with Silom Rd being closed to traffic from 9 am to midnight on Sundays. During this time, people are able to walk freely along the road, enjoying the street entertainment. Comparing the two roads, K. Pitak said, “I think Bangla Rd will be a lot easier to manage because Silom Rd is in Bangkok, which has a population of about 10 million people. Traffic is a major problem there. But in Phuket, the population is much smaller. I think Soi Bangla could be closed to traffic on Saturdays and Sundays.” Asked whether he thought the proposal was realistic, Vice-governor Manit Ratanasen – who toured the area with K. Pitak and Patong Mayor Surasak Maneesri – replied, “It’s possible because we have the government’s support. The project could start very soon, maybe in February. “We can start building the pedestrian zone as soon as we finish building the wastewater treatment plant.”
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