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Phuket officials “reprimand’ The Village

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PHUKET: During a day-trip inspection tour to Koh Maphrao off Phuket’s east coast on Tuesday, Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkhaosutthirak reprimanded The Village resort for environmental and licensing law infractions.

Accompanied by an entourage of no fewer than 30 officials and members of the press, V/Gov Somkiet inspected the upscale resort in response to a complaint filed at the Damrongtham Center (Ombudman’s Office) at Phuket Provincial Hall.

Local residents complained that the resort was releasing untreated wastewater into the sea.

The Village Managing Director Christopher Gordon showed V/Gov Somkiet how each unit had wastewater treatment tanks built in, explaining that by the time wastewater discharged into the resort sewer mains, the water was safe to release.

He even offered to show V/Gov the project plans.

“All of the villas have their own [sewage treatment facilities]. These all connect up to the central system. The wastewater is absolutely treated before it is released to the sea. It is a Thai-government approved system,” Mr Gordon explained.

V/Gov Somkiet was not fully convinced, however.

“I understand that the project is ongoing. We will need a team to return and inspect the project once it is completed,” he said.

As chance would have it, a two-hour downpour that hit the island during the inspection tour revealed what was probably the real cause for the complaint: silt-laden runoff from the still-under-construction second phase that flowed into the sea, turning it a murky red.

Subsequent questioning by V/Gov Somkiet revealed that the developers had not fully complied with the terms specified in its Environmental Impact Assessment report, which stipulated that the project must have a 13,000 cubic meter catchment to trap runoff and allow sediment to settle out before discharge.

V/Gov Somkiet gave Mr Gordon 15 days to a month to install the specified catchment and warned that failure to do so could result in legal action.

Mr Gordon was happy to oblige.

“Please give me some time. I cannot do it all in one day,” he said.

As for licensing issues, Mr Gordon revealed that some of the “jacuzzi suites” in the incomplete second phase were already being rented out, even though the resort had yet to obtain a hotel license for that part of the development.

“Some are now under construction. There will be 116 suites. Only about half of them are now open. They opened to guests only about two to three months ago,” he said.

“We have done an EIA, but we don’t have a hotel license for that section yet. We have yet to apply for one. We are thinking of applying after we finish the development,” Mr Gordon added.

V/Gov Somkiet said he was very concerned that the resort was operating without a proper license.

“The houses won’t be a problem because they are under the Land Development Act. But opening some parts for guests to rent out daily, and in the middle of the construction, must be considered as operating a hotel business,” he explained.

“We would like to suggest that you apply for a hotel license in order to let guests stay nightly, weekly or whatever, legally. You may not fully understand Thai law, but what you are doing is risky – it can be construed as contravening the Hotel Act,” V/Gov Somkiet said.

Again, Mr Gordon said he had no problem in abiding by the law, adding that he might apply for a hotel license to cover the entire project.

“For me, it makes no difference. Hotel or rental, it is still the same. We make money, and we pay our bills and we pay our taxes. It’s the same business. In fact, I think if we had a hotel license it would be an advantage,” he said.

— Janpen Upatising

 

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