Patong plan takes a step forward

PATONG: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will fund a 200-million-baht project to improve road surfaces, sidewalks and drains along the beach road in Patong, it was announced yesterday.

The announcement came during the third meeting of a committee set up to oversee redevelopment of Patong in the wake of the December 26 tsunami. The meeting, held at Patong Municipal offices yesterday afternoon, was chaired jointly by Phuket Vice Governors Winai Buapradit and Niran Kalayanamit.

Other members of the 15-person committee included Patong Mayor Pian Keesin, Kathu Police Superintendent Pol Lt Col Teeraphol Thipjaroen, Phuket Tourist Association (PTA) President Pattanapong Aikwanich and PTA Executive Committee Member Oraual Paethong.

Mayor Pian said the TAT budget was approved by the Cabinet at the end of February. 

The entire budget would be earmarked for the public works improvements. The provincial government is setting up a special committee to select the project contractor, a process expected to take about two months. The funds have already been received by the provincial government.

Patong Municipality has a long history of corruption charges, proven and otherwise, related to past public works projects it has overseen. However, the selection committee is being set up, not as a specific measure to prevent corruption, but as part of standard procedures to administer central government funds.

Mayor Pian told the committee that the committee had also submitted a request to the Phuket Provincial Electricity Authority office to install underground electrical cables along the beach road while the road work was in progress, but was still waiting for a response. This would cost 350 million baht.

On the issue of color-coordinating beach umbrellas and other steps to give the shoreline a more “orderly” appearance, Mayor Pian said the Municipality would carry out these measures by September.

Under the plan, operators would rent the umbrellas from the Municipality at a daily rate of 10 baht. Each umbrella would carry a registration number, allowing the Municipality to use a computer database to keep track of their numbers.

Whether or not umbrella operators would be able to use them for advertising purposes, as is the current practice, is still under consideration, said K. Pian.

V/Gov Winai said each operator would be required to maintain a minimum distance of four meters between his chairs and those of the neighboring operator.

There was no mention during the meeting, however, of how many rows each operator would be allowed, or of the minimum spacing between rows in an individual operator’s territory.

Another issue discussed was the replacement of signs damaged by the tsunami along the beach road. Mayor Pian said most business owners were complying with municipal regulation that no signs be placed within two meters of the sidewalk, thereby allowing adequate room for the planned construction work. He also said business operators were being encouraged to install signs at the same height and orientation in order to create an impression of order.

Addressing the one area where clear progress has already been made – keeping car and motorbike rental operators from monopolizing the parking spaces along the beach road – Col Teeraphol reported that his officers had successfully limited the operators to setting up small tables in the area, requiring them to keep their vehicles in other locations and only bring them to the beach when hired.

“The car rental agencies don’t own the area as they did in the past,” he said.

In the latter stages of the meeting, discussion turned to the issue of closing Soi Bangla to traffic at nighttime. V/Gov Winai favored closing the road every evening, but agreed to a suggestion by the Municipality to close the road from 6 pm to 4 am daily on Friday and Saturday evenings on a trial basis starting April 8. It was agreed that if public reaction was positive, the closing would be extended to other days.

The committee also discussed bringing more order to Patong’s traffic chaos by establishing one-way traffic on smaller, connecting sois in the district. Signs in English and Thai, to indicate the correct direction of flow, have already been ordered and are expected to arrive soon, the committee was told.

K. Oraual told the committee that more than 60 owners of small businesses had contacted the PTA for help in getting loans from the Government Savings Bank to restart their tsunami-damaged businesses.

She said the business, such as small tour agencies, played a vital role in the economy but were having more trouble obtaining loans from commercial banks due to their small size and lack of collateral. She said the PTA would petition the Government Savings Bank on their behalf and ask that the vendors be allowed to serve as guarantors for one another.

Phuket News
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