Expo center to be built at Saphan Hin
PHUKET: Phuket’s International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC) will be built on land reclaimed from the sea off Saphan Hin, a site favored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) but opposed by many island residents. The controversial decision is understood to have been made yesterday when Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak met with the TAT Governor Juthamas Siriwan, Phuket Governor CEO Udomsak Usawarangura, the President of Phuket Administration Organization (OrBorJor) Dr Prasit Koeysiripong, and other senior officials. It comes amid intense activity by government ministers as they implement Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s vision, announced in January, to make Phuket a regional hub for tourism, business and IT development. Villagers in the north of the island, who felt they had so far missed out on Phuket’s tourism-driven prosperity, advocated building the ICEC in Tah Chat Chai. In February, a meeting of government officials, business leaders and members of the public voted overwhelmingly in favor of Tah Chat Chai, with 226 votes, compared to 19 for Saphan Hin, 17 for Khao Khad on Ao Makham and just seven for a site opposite Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town. This effort at grassroots democracy, however, seems to have received short shrift at yesterday’s meeting in Bangkok. Phuket Town Mayor Phummisak Hongsyok, a leading opponent of the Saphan Hin proposal, told the Gazette he continues to be skeptical about building the ICEC at Saphan Hin and fears it will fail unless the effects on the environment and transportation are carefully studied. Saphan Hin, on the waterfront and surrounded by mangroves, is a major sporting and recreation center for Phuket Town. The mayor said that the government would have to spend billions of baht to solve transport problems created by building the center at Saphan Hin. He predicted that there would be an adverse reaction to the decision. Napasorn Kakai, assistant director of the TAT’s Phuket office, declined to comment until plans for the center had been formally announced.
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