PATONG: After two weeks of unsuccessfully petitioning the government to compromise on operating hours, members of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) said in a meeting at Patong Hospital on Friday night they would have no alternative but to demonstrate if a last-ditch appeal to PM Thaksin Shinawatra is ignored.
PEBA President Sompetch Moosophon said, “We will send the final petition to PM Thaksin Shinawatra on October 13. If we don’t get a positive sign, we must take action. Actually, we don’t want to do anything bad, but we are being forced to as a result of our suffering.”
The final plea will come during the Thai premier’s upcoming visit to Phuket for an annual meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the Sheraton Grande Laguna tomorrow.
In the PEBA meeting, former Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) Vice-President and Thai Rak Thai parliamentary candidate Wisut Santikul offered to serve as a mediator, saying, “I understand that we cannot wait while the authorities neglect their responsibilities, because so many investors are losing money.”
K. Wisut said he would try to petition PM Thaksin personally in order to help prevent the formation of what some at the meeting described as a “mob”.
He also planned to meet today with Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenont and with Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula on October 14.
K. Bhokin told the Gazette last week that the entertainment laws must be enforced. But, he added, “There is a possibility the rules might be re-considered, if we find an improvement in customers’ awareness of how to behave in such places, and safer driving.”
Meanwhile, reaction in Patong to the earlier closing times – 1 am for all but a handful of establishments within the entertainment zone and and midnight for the rest, remains thoroughly opposed.
One foreign bar owner in Patong told the Gazette that the earlier closing times were unfair to investors, who pay taxes and business fees to the government.
“The Government keeps moving the goalposts,” he said.
“It forces everybody out of the bars before they are ready to go, you get people drinking very heavily at last call. Then they all end up on the street, drunk, at the same time. That’s when fights start. We had the same problem in my country before they made later closing times. In Thailand, they seem to be going in the opposite direction.
“Patong’s nightlife is one of Phuket’s prime tourist attractions. Killing it with unrealistically early closing times will effect tourism island-wide,” he added.
Kantima Chuenjai, who manages the hostesses at bar in Patong, told the Gazette, “We are suffering so much. Patong is now changing from a city of lights to a city of darkness. We used to do about 40,000 baht a day in revenue, but now it’s less than 10,000.
“The period when tourists drink the most is 1 am to 3 am. Before, we were allowed to stay open until 5 am. Then it went to 3 am, then 2 am. But if we have to close at 1 am we cannot survive. These changes have come too fast and we haven’t had time to prepare for them. Nowadays, Soi Bangla is very silent and we are suffering,” she said.
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