Patong nightspots under curfew scrutiny

PATONG, PHUKET: Following many reports that certain nightlife establishments in Patong are not closing by the mandatory 2am curfew, the Phuket’s governor and the island’s top police officer say the situation is being closely monitored.

This follows a report in a local Thai language newspaper that three unspecified nightclubs were habitually operating until 6am.

At a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday, Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop and Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong said they were aware of the report and that an investigation would be launched ‘as soon as possible’.

Gov Wichai told the meeting that when he visited Patong’s Soi Bangla Tuesday night to take part in Loy Kratong activities, he didn’t see any signs of venues staying open past the 2am deadline.

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“Maybe they recognized my face and were well-prepared. Anyway, we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.

Patong Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukhabaan downplayed the problem of certain venues staying open late, saying it was less important than illegal drug use or tourist rip-offs.

Mr Chairat said it was time to re-think the 2am closing time that applies to most venues in Patong, as this would be good for tourism.

“It’s normal for bars to stay open until late in major cities like New York or London. Tourists are here to travel and enjoy, and some can’t adjust to the time difference,” said Mr Chairat, himself a former nightclub operator.

“If we could just change the closing time it would be hugely beneficial to the Thai tourism industry. In history, this country earned most of its revenue from rice and rubber, but now we rely on tourism,” he said.

Mr Chairat agrees that zoning should be used to keep nightlife venues away from schools and places of worship, but said that those in designated tourist areas should be allowed to remain open later than is now permissible.

This would help generate government revenue though increased tax collection, he said.

As for reports of a mysterious video disc being circulated among some nightlife business operators to show how their rivals are getting away with breaking the curfew, the head of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) said he was unaware of any such recording.

“I don’t know anything about the VCD mentioned in the report,” said current PEBA president Weerawit Kurasombut.

Mr Weerawit added that he expects a large influx of tourists in the high season that is just getting underway.

PEBA members staged formal protests in 2004 when Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon moved the closing time to 2am as part of the ministry’s controversial ‘social order’ policy.

— Sitthipong Nongkaew

Phuket News
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