Landslide prevention meetings take backseat at Phuket’s Big Buddha construction site

PHUKET: Meetings regarding landslide prevention and water management at one of Phuket’s most popular tourist attractions, Big Buddha, have fallen by the wayside.

Construction at the site was halted on February 28, prompting a full inspection led by Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosuttirak, after Karon villagers filed a complaint alleging that it had caused landslides last year and could do so again this rainy season (story here).

Landslide risks, dirty water and water run-off were hot topics at the March 19 meeting about the construction (story here). A follow-up meeting was set to take place one month later, but never did.

Chief of Phuket’s Damrongtham Center told the Phuket Gazette this morning that the case involving construction at the site had been put under the responsibility of Karon Municipality, as the affected villagers were from Karon.

“We assigned the Karon Muncipality to follow up on the case after the last meeting,” said Prapan Kanprasang.

However, Karon Mayor Tawee Thongcham, recently arrested for his alleged involvement in the taxi mafia (story here), told the Gazette today that he was unaware of any case regarding the construction site.

“I have never heard of this Big Buddha construction site case, and no meetings about the issue have taken place in Karon or Kata,” said Mr Tawee.

He declined to comment further on the subject.

Meanwhile, Suporn Vanitchakul, president of the Phraphuttha Mingmongkol Sattha 45 Foundation and head of the Big Buddha construction site, told the Gazette this afternoon that although construction on the religious image has been stalled since February, he plans to plant 200 trees tomorrow to prevent landslides and improve the environment.

“We will plant about 200 trees tomorrow with support from local police officers,” Mr Suporn said.

“I have kept my word that I would not do anything that affects the lives of local villagers. I have not restarted construction on Big Buddha, as there has been no follow-up meeting about it.”

The lack of a follow-up meeting was not the only factor causing Mr Suporn to step back from construction.

“I think people were trying to financially benefit from the problems that the Big Buddha site was facing. However, that has stopped now that so many people have been recently arrested,” he said.

Mr Suporn declined to explain his allegations further.

— Saran Mitrarat

Phuket News

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