PHUKET: Ministry of Finance General Inspector Prasit Suebchana met Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkhaosutthirak today to reaffirm that his ministry will fight for Phuket’s convention center to go ahead.
The international convention and exhibition center (ICEC) project stalled early this month when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) announced that the project’s plan had failed its initial environmental evaluation (IEE) assessment.
However, Mr Prasit, who is also the vice president of the Treasury Department’s standing committee for the ICEC, today said he had met many local residents who told him none of the “failures” held any credence.
“As for the site being a location where sea turtles lay their eggs, I had the chance to inspect the area yesterday, and people there said they had not seen sea turtles at that part of the beach for a long time.
“They said sea turtles lay eggs at another part of the beach – not the ICEC site,” he added.
Regarding complaints by the MNRE that the project site was home to what they called “Phuket’s last forest”, Mr Prasit replied, “I have now seen the area. It is not a forest. Most of the area is already bare.
“The trees that are there now will remain untouched and kept as a protected area in accordance with the project plan.”
The project also came under scrutiny following reports that the center, under its current planned design, would not be “tsunami-proof”.
For this, Mr Prasit again turned to local expertise on the matter.
“The local people I spoke to said the tsunami [in 2004] only caused some flooding in that area. Nothing was destroyed. The Tsunami hit Mai Khao Beach about 500-600 meters away, so the area [for the planned ICEC] is not in a tsunami-risk zone,” he said.
As for criticism that the center would not be “worthwhile” in terms of investment, Mr Prasit said the Treasury Department will again report its position on this to the MNRE.
“The Ministry of Finance and Phuket authorities believe the ICEC is worthwhile. The ICEC is needed by Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi. It will help the economies of these provinces,” he said.
“Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet told me that almost 100 per cent of Phuket people support this project. I believe the Treasury Department will push for the ICEC to go ahead, even though it might be delayed, because we have to represent the fact that the ICEC is not going to cause any issues,” he said.
“I do not think there will be any problems. I am certain the new government will support the project.
“I would like to see the people of Phuket help push the ICEC project too,” Mr Prasit added.
Vice Governor Somkiet welcomed Mr Prasit’s support.
“The Phuket Provincial Office strongly supports the ICEC. We need to coordinate with the Phuket Natural Resources and Environment office and local people who disagree with the project,” he said.
“Local residents have to be strong in laying out the facts regarding these complaints. And as for the investment concerns, we already have an agency to take care of investment issues,” he added.
V/Gov Somkiet also voiced deep concerns about the local MNRE office.
“I would like to ask the Phuket Natural Resources and Environment office to take care of their business.
“The Phuket MNRE office only has problems with government projects. They seem to be quiet about what they have done for private businesses,” he said.
— Chutharat Plerin
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