Phuket and Andamans to be twinned

PHUKET CITY: Phuket Province will be officially “twinned” with Port Blair, capital of India’s Andaman & Nicobar Islands, at a signing ceremony to take place at Phuket Provincial Hall tomorrow.

At a meeting yesterday to prepare for the arrival of the Indian delegation, Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura told attendees that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was keen to expand trade and tourism links between the two areas, which are located about 450 kilometers apart.

Although the islands are a special administrative district of India, they are closer to Phuket than they are to the Indian mainland.

The Andaman & Nicobar delegation is expected to include the islands’ Governor, Ram Kapse, the Indian Ambassador to Thailand, Vivek Katju, and the Port Blair Administrator, Chetan B Sanghi.

The Phuket side will be headed by Gov Udomsak, who led a delegation to Port Blair last June. Joining him will  be other government officials, Royal Thai Navy officers and representatives of the private sector.

Gov Udomsak yesterday said the two sides would discuss ways to expand economic links, particularly in the fishing and recreational dive industries, as well as joint training of navy personnel. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are home to a major Indian Navy base.

He added that both Thai Airways and Phuket Air had shown interest in establishing direct air links between Phuket and Port Blair, and he assigned a Foreign Ministry coordinator who attended the meeting to look into licensing and other bilateral issues that were delaying establishment of such a route.

He noted, however, that the only way such links could come about would be through cooperation at the national level between the Indian and Thai governments.

Also attending yesterday’s meeting was former Phuket Chamber of Commerce Chairman Pamuke Archariyachai, who visited Port Blair with the Governor last year.

He said that the Indian government seemed to be taking a cautious approach to opening up the islands to the outside world.

It still has not announced plans to extend runways or make other improvements to the airport in Port Blair that would be needed before it could safely accommodate more air traffic, he added.

“We discussed this with them once, but they seemed satisfied with the current situation,” he said.

Like Gov Udomsak, K. Pamuke noted that any orders to upgrade the airport would have to be made at the national government level, and that discussion of the issue among provincial officials would be unlikely to achieve much.

“Without air links”, he pointed out, “We can be sister provinces, we can exchange opinions – but we can’t do much more than that.”

The Port Blair team will be in Phuket for three days, starting tomorrow, and will stay at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket.

Their tour is expected to include visits to the Boat Lagoon, the Phi Phi Islands, the Third Naval Area Command Base at Cape Panwa and Phuket FantaSea.

Phuket News

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