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Honorary Consuls tackle Phuket tourism’s Big Bad Four

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PHUKET: Tuk-tuks, jet-skis, dirty water and bad publicity abroad once again topped the agenda at the sixth “Honorary Consuls Meeting with Local Authorities” at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday afternoon.

Governor Tri Augkaradecha opened the proceedings by apologizing for some “inappropriate language” by some attendees at the previous gathering in February.

He also promised to keep the meetings short by inviting only the heads of relevant agencies.

Notably absent from yesterday’s gathering were Patong Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukkaban, who at the previous meeting gave a spirited defense of the pricing structure used by tuk-tuks in Patong, and Phuket Marine Transport Office chief Phuriphat Teerakulpisut, who denied there were any “dark influences” in the island’s jet-ski rental industry.

After welcoming visiting Australian Ambassador James Wise, the discussion soon turned to the scheduled airing in Germany in three weeks’ time of an episode of the popular show We Save Your Vacation.

The show contains footage of tourists allegedly swimming in Kata and Karon as untreated sewage discharged into the sea floated around them.

The story featured on the front page of the Phuket Gazette‘s May 7 issue.

Karon Municipality chief administrator Weerasak Anakewongsawad told the hearing that the discharge in Kata, near the Kata Beach Resort, was not the result of illegal discharge by hotels, as alleged in the German documentary.

Rather, it was the result of a lengthy power cut at a nearby sewage treatment substation that left operators no choice but to release the untreated water into the sea.

Karon Municipality is currently seeking a budget to buy a back-up generator to prevent a recurrence, he said.

As for the situation at Nong Harn Lake (Karon Park), Pimook Sonmee from Southern Thai Consulting said the growth of seaweed in the canal might have been confused with pollution.

Discharge from the nearby treatment plant has been tested by an independent party every two months since the tsunami and the result has always come back within standards, he said.

Mr Pimook noted that the treatment plant is now at or near its maximum capacity of 6,000 cubic meters a day, and that some parts of Karon, especially newly-developed areas, fall outside the catchment area.

Noting that the German documentary is scheduled to air in just three weeks, Phuket Provincial Administration Organization President Paiboon Upatising called for immediate action to mitigate the damage.

It is crucial to provide the right information quickly so the filmmakers can update the episode’s content before it airs, he said.

Phuket Vice Governor Weerawat Janpen suggested contacting the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Office Director in Germany, Suwalai Pinpradup, to help set the record straight using her contacts there.

Ms Suwalai, whose previous posting was at the TAT office in Phuket, should be well aware of the potential damage such a program could cause, he said.

The provincial office had already sent a preliminary letter asking for action, Gov Tri said.

German honorary consul Dirk Naumann said the German media should be invited here to see the situation for themselves and report the truth.

For more on the many topics discussed at the consuls’ meeting, pick up a copy of the Phuket Gazette newspaper due out Friday afternoon. Digital subscribers click here to download the full issue.

— Stephen Michael Fein

 

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