Phang Nga tsunami victims “have all been helped’

KHAO LAK: All Phang Nga residents who were in need of financial aid after the tsunami have received it, either through government assistance or in the form of private-sector donations, a senior provincial official has told the Gazette.

“We can say that 100% of the people who lost homes and fishing boats have had them replaced,” Vice-Governor Opas Svetamani told the Gazette when asked about the province’s tsunami recovery effort.

However, V/Gov Opas admitted that there were still some problems with post-tsunami recovery in Phang Nga, the Thai province hit hardest by the killer waves.

Among those problems, he said, were people using low-quality donated boats to go out to sea.

“Some of the donated boats were not built of hardwood and were intended only for use on klongs, but people have been taking them out on the open ocean in order to make a living,” he noted.

Other problems included the failure of some business people to secure the bank loans they needed in order to rebuild. The number of such cases was small, he said, and most resulted from bad credit histories dating back to before the tsunami.

Some major resorts, particularly in Khao Lak, have already reopened. Of the remainder, V/Gov Opas said, “Many [small] hotel owners have started rebuilding, with the goal of being back in business by the start of the next high season [in November],” he said.

Total tourist arrivals in the province were down about 40% compared with the same period in years before the tsunami, he added.

The government was trying to coordinate some 40 private-sector organizations working in the province in order to prevent unnecessary duplication of relief efforts, he said.

The province is also investigating claims that some Christian foundations had been offering tsunami relief aid only to people who agreed to convert to Christianity, he said.

He added that one private-sector group wanted to set up a special school for Burmese children.

“We won’t reject their offer of help, but we will insist that they follow government rules in doing so,” he said.

Phuket News

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