Speaking at the project’s opening ceremony held near Chalermprakiat Somdejprasrinakarin Phuket School yesterday, Gov Wichai said he discussed the project with PM Abhisit last month.
“The prime minister agreed with my project proposals,” Gov Wichai said.
“He will propose the project to Cabinet, and when Cabinet approves the project we’ll start building the road immediately.”
The 23-million-baht project has attracted controversy because it involves clearing eight rai of mangrove forest that falls under the jurisdiction of the Royal Forest Department.
For our previous report, click here.
The four-lane road will not be a ‘flyover’ as originally proposed, but will be built with drainage channels beneath to minimize damage to the surrounding mangroves, project proponents say.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) has yet to approve the project, attracting speculation at some local media outlets that Gov Wichai will face arrest if he goes ahead with the new road.
With the prime minister’s support, it seems unlikely such a scenario will play out.
Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by a number of high-profile Phuket politicians, including Senators Phummisak Hongyok and Thanyarat Atchariyachai, MP Rewat Areerob, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana and Wichit Mayor Kreetha Saetan.
After banging a gong, Gov Wichai joined with the other leaders to cut a ribbon to declare the project open.
At the same time, Buddhism, Islamic, Christian and Sikh leaders were present to wish the project success.
More than 300 local people from Wichit and Phuket City held up banners and cheered in support of a road they said would save them time and money in fuel bills.
Other banners urged Ongard Thanacharnmongkhon, chief of the MNRE’s Phuket office, to support the project.
Mr Ongard and officers from the MNRE were not in attendance.
“I intend to build this project for the benefit of all the people, not for myself,” Gov Wichai said, joking that the project hadn’t been of financial benefit to his mother-in-law or any other relatives.
— Kamol Pirat
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