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Deputy PM defends Phang Nga pipeline



Deputy PM defends Phang Nga pipeline | Thaiger

THALANG: In his first press conference today in Phuket, Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Lipatapanlop defended the government’s plan to build an oil pipeline across Phang Nga, saying that it will not affect tourism in the region.

Speaking to the press at Phuket International Airport this morning, the former Chart Pattana leader, who joined Thai Rak Thai as Deputy PM two and a half weeks ago, said, “It will not affect the environment or cause problems for tourism in the region [of Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi].”

Deputy PM Suwat’s statement came before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was handed an official letter of complaint by the President of the Phang Nga Tourism Business Association (PNTBA) at a meeting in Phang Nga at midday.

PNTBA Deputy President Amarit Siriponjuthakun told the Gazette, “I do not understand why the government wants to risk destroying a place that welcomes about 4 million tourists [a year], who spend about 200,000 million baht a year.

“It doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t match tourism policy. It’s impossible for the oil industry to be congruent with tourism. This issue should be discussed logically.”

Focusing on other problems with tourism, Deputy PM Suwat said that the government will target people who cheat tourists, as well as Phuket-specific problems, such as inadequate infrastructure and traffic congestion.

“Although the Office of National Economic and Social Development reported that the growth in the number of tourists [to Phuket] has fallen, all that means is that the rate of growth has decreased, not the actual number of tourists,” he pointed out.

However, he added, “The report has prompted us to develop plans to make Phuket’s tourism sustainable. Phuket first needs improved infrastructure – roads, the airport and pollution control – and the environment needs to be preserved.

“I recently received a report on the traffic problems in Phuket from the Phuket Governor, and I will return to investigate in detail soon,” he said, adding that he will return at the end of September, but that a date has yet to be set.

On the problem of people cheating tourists, the Deputy PM said, “PM Thaksin Shinawatra has told me to investigate this issue. We are going to found a committee to prevent and eventually eliminate, especially, the cheating of Chinese tourists, who have high spending power.

“We should look after these 5 million tourists [a year] because they provide good income,” he said.

“Tourism in this region is highly competitive, and just a few bad news stories released worldwide about tourists being cheated will greatly affect our country.

“We don’t want to lose tourism, which provides a major income for ordinary people. Income from tourism is different from other incomes; it directly affects the lives of ordinary people,” he said.


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