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Hail Phuket Provincial Hall

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PHUKET: Protests over the recently-unveiled plan to build a new 465-million-baht Phuket Provincial Hall (story here) strike us as quite surprising, especially the fact that self-described “local people” are leading the opposition: virtually all of the land in the immediate vicinity belongs to the state.

Few would argue the need for a larger provincial hall complex on Phuket. Various plans to replace Provincial Hall, which is over a century old, have been on hold for almost two decades.

Provincial Hall is home to the Phuket Provincial Office (the seat of the central government apparatus); the head office of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (a locally elected body); and other organizations such as the Phuket Press Club. The current complex is simply too small to meet the administrative needs of an island that has experienced a huge population boom over the past few decades.

Underscoring this point is the fact that despite being the seat of the highest power on the island, the existing Provincial Hall is dwarfed in size by some of the palatial tambon administration organization (OrBorTor) buildings that have sprung up around the island in recent years.

Inside Phuket Provincial Hall, the offices are typically cramped and overcrowded; outside, an inadequate number of parking spaces forces visitors and workers to park on local thoroughfares, including Damrong Road, threatening to degrade one of the island’s most picturesque roadways into just another city street.

To be sure, we are concerned about several aspects of the project, especially the impact it will have on the entire government quarter, which serves as a natural lung for the ever-expanding urban sprawl that Greater Phuket Town has become.

Every effort should be made to preserve the surrounding area in its current state, to fell as few trees as possible and put a halt to encroachment in the area.

This is especially necessary in and around the Chumchon Lang Sarn (“Community Behind the Court”) and several other communities in the area, which have their antecedents as slums illegally built on public land.

It is difficult to know the exact motives that were truly driving this latest protest, but one must suspect that there is more to it than outrage at being temporarily deprived access to a poorly-maintained football pitch and some tennis courts.

The fact that one of the organizers is not, in fact, a local resident and was a central figure in the almost two-year delay in the opening of Phuket Bus Terminal 2, suggests the possibility that vested interests, not just recreational pursuits, may have been involved.

 

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