PHUKET TOWN: A special meeting was convened yesterday to brainstorm ideas on how Phuket might be developed into a duty-free city. Provincial Governor Pongpayome Vasaputi called the meeting – which brought together members of the Provincial Administration Organization and the Thai business community – in the wake of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s proposal that tourism in Phuket and Chiang Mai be boosted by turning them into duty-free cities. “Duty-free areas may be in the form of duty-free shops, a duty-free zone or a duty-free city. So far, the Ministry of Finance has not decided how they will do it,” said the Governor. “This is just a brainstorming session,” he said. “Our ideas will duly be passed to the Permanent Secretary for Finance.” Opinions at the meeting were divided into two camps. On one side were those who urged that Phuket be turned into a duty-free island. On the other were those who worried that this would attract smugglers. The second group also argued that promoting Phuket’s natural attractions – rather than the lure of duty-free goods –would be most effective in bringing in visitors.
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