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Mass Phuket protest demands Deputy PM step down



PHUKET: Ahead of the white-mask protest set for Sunday, hundreds of members of the “We Preserve Phuket Club” stormed Phuket Provincial Hall this morning demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra relieve Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi of his position after he issued a thinly veiled threat to the people of Phuket concerning the cancelled International Convention and Exhibition Center project (story here).

“The protest today is not about politics. It is all about Phuket people being underestimated by one of Thailand’s deputy prime ministers, Plodprasop Suraswadi,” said Phuket Democrat MP Raywat Areerob.

“I am here today as Phuket’s voice to protect our honor. We are here to present the will of the people, but here to do so in peace. We will not commit violence, there will be no burnings,” MP Raywat said. “Plodprasop’s statement is inciting disharmony in the country and intending to divide Thai people apart.”

The non-violent protesters led by MP Raywat, We Preserve Phuket Club President Boonsupaa Tanthai and Provincial Council member Manoo Kiewkram had gathered to present a letter to Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut to be passed up the ranks to PM Yingluck asking that Deputy PM Plodprasop be removed from his position.

“It is not about Pheu Thai or the Democrat Party. We are here because we cannot accept this form of politics anymore – the government is not being sincere in dealing with us,” Mr Manoo said.

“We need a government that will move Thailand forward, not just look after the members of their own party.

“We need a government that is fair – Phuket earns a lot of money for the entire nation, but the Phuket ICEC project was cancelled, and for Plodprasop to say such things is a total disgrace,” Mr Manoo said.

We Preserve Phuket Club members stepped into the spotlight after Deputy PM Plodprasop made his threat against the island last Sunday. Since then, video clips of the speech have gone viral, inciting protests across the nation.

“Phuket is next on the list for a convention hall [International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC)] after we finish the one here,” Deputy PM Plodprasop said in Chiang Mai.

“But I will not allow it to be built. We might build it if Phuket people vote for the Pheu Thai party, but if they don’t, that building project is not going anywhere,” he said.

Deputy PM Plodprasop’s statement left members of the We Preserve Phuket Club in disbelief.

“He said that the ICEC project was cancelled and he dared anyone who had a problem with it to step into the ring. He also said that he would only bring the center to Phuket if the people of Phuket voted for the Pheu Thai party – he said he was not in the ‘mood’ to build the ICEC in Phuket,” Mr Boonsupaa said.

“Is this the kind of statement a government administrator is supposed to make? Is he mature enough to be a Deputy PM?” Mr Boonsupaa asked.

Mr Boonsupaa cited the vast amount of revenue generated by Phuket for the Kingdom annually, pointing out that the government needed to support the province to allow it to continue to improve its revenue flow and drive the country’s economy.

“The cancellation of the ICEC in Phuket represents a great deal of lost potential income for residents and revenue for the country,” Mr Boonsupaa said.

We Preserve Phuket Club’s letter of protest was warmly received by Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa, in Gov Maitri’s absence.

“Thank you all for coming out to demonstrate your love of Phuket and Thailand. Please know that the letter will be passed on to the Ministry of the Interior – I promise PM Yingluck will receive it,” V/Gov Sommai said. “However, I cannot promise that we will be able to bring back the ICEC project.”

“Please be calm and we will proceed cautiously. We will not create any further disharmony in our country,” she said.

After leaving Phuket Provincial Hall the group of hundreds marched to the Phuket Revenue Office and submitted a letter to them, stating that they must work for the people, not an unjust government.

“They are supposed to look after us, because we are the ones who are paying taxes. Our taxes should be used for the highest benefit of all people who pay them, not just a single group,” Mr Boonsupaa said.

— Chutharat Plerin


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