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Proposed site for ICEC finally selected

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Proposed site for ICEC finally selected | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Investment group ING Funds (Thailand) has chosen a 350-rai plot of Treasury Department land in Mai Khao as the preferred site for the Phuket International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC).

The announcement came during a meeting of the project’s siting committee chaired by Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit at Phuket Provincial Hall on Thursday.

In announcing its conclusion, ING Funds (Thailand) Managing Director Maris Tarab told the committee his firm hopes to fund the three-billion-baht project at the island’s northernmost tip through a limited public company that would be set up by the Treasury Department, if the idea is approved by the Finance Ministry.

The seaside site was chosen over a 250-rai locale privately owned by the other finalist, Anuphas & Sons off Chao Fa West Rd in Wichit.

The two locations were among four sites put before ING Funds for consideration after Tourism and Sports Minister Suwit Yodmanee in August gave the go-ahead for the project to be developed with private-sector investment.

In its study comparing the two sites, ING Funds cited lower land rental costs as an important reason for choosing the government land. Taking all economic factors into account, the total cost of renting 250 rai at the Mai Khao site, with an option to expand, over 30 years worked out to 150 million baht compared with 1.845 billion baht for the private land, the ING Fund study report concluded.

The 350-rai site, located between Tah Chat Chai School and Sirinath National Park, was also chosen over another 130-rai plot of state land nearby, due to its larger size and the impressive sea views it will afford, K. Maris said.

The land is held through the Treasury Department’s State Property Management and Services (Ratchapassadu) Office.

“By choosing this site we will help promote tourism not only in Phuket, but also in nearby provinces such as Krabi and Phang Nga. This location will also help spread development across the entire island and will not worsen the traffic situation in and around Phuket City.

“It is also near the provincial sports center complex and other support facilities, and will have adequate space for parking,” he said.

Though near the airport, the site has been criticized as being too remote from Phuket’s main population centers.

Under the proposed design drawn up by the Chiang Mai-based architectural firm Axis Group, the center will occupy a total of about 308 rai. Of this, 103 rai will be occupied by building structures and 69 rai would be earmarked for parking. The remainder of the land, set back 20 meters from the high-tide mark, will be left open.

The plan calls for a stingray-shaped main arena surrounded by three plazas and a main entrance lobby, along with two exhibition halls, a food court and restaurant area, meeting rooms and support facilities.

K. Maris accepted that using government land, while less expensive, would require the government to first establish a public limited company. ING Funds would then have to outbid any rival firms interested in investing in the project.

For the project to be a success, it would require more than just approval from the many government agencies involved, K. Maris said.

“We will need government support in helping to find groups to use the facility as well as public transport to shuttle people to the center from hotels around the island. We will also need basic infrastructure, including water, electricity and telephone lines. As discussed earlier, we also need assurances that the government would not assist in funding a competing facility in the future,” he said.

Gov Niran said he agreed with the siting decision presented by ING Funds and has appointed the provincial Treasury Office to study the issues involved and move forward in seeking approval.

There is still interest among many other private-sector groups in investing in such a project in Phuket, he said.

“We are waiting for the government to support us. The Treasury Department will have to set up a company to present the project to the Finance Ministry. After that the project will still need Cabinet approval. All of this will take some time, but if we begin now the process should be completed in about two years time,” he said.

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Marina Krasnopolska

WARNING! Content below contains photos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

The flags on Go Teng poles were lowered on Monday, ending Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival and symbolising that the spirits have returned the heavens. The flags are raised at the start of the festivities each year at participating shrines, calling on the spirits to descend from the heavens.

This year, 2 men were electrocuted while taking down the festival flags. A steel pole with the flag touched a power pole, electrocuting and burning the workers as they were trying to lower the flags. They were taken to the hospital.

During the festival’s street processions and ceremonies so-called “mah songs” channel the descended spirits. They enter a trance-like state and many practice self-mutilation to channel the spirits. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and some say the mah song acts as a horse for the spirit to ride.

Some mah song pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with steel spikes and sometimes swords or other bizarre choices (we’ve seen petrol pumps, javelins, samurai swords and kitchen utensils). During the street procession, they walk for hours with the self-inflicted piercings, seemingly posessed by ‘spirits’ and muttering all sort of strange chants, verging on mild cases of Tourette syndrome. A team of devotees for each mah song wipe away blood and keep the wounds clean. Some mah songs even slice their tongue for the street procession. Blood drips on their chest and the ground. Waiting bystanders line the streets hoping for the blessing of a passing mah song. Some mah songs carry a black flag.

The event is an annual spiritual ‘cleansing’ for those in watching the processions. Onlookers lining the street bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position as the mah song waves flags and banners over their heads. Businesses along the procession route often set up an altar outside their shop and mah songs stop at each one to do a short ritual.

The Phuket government gave the festival organisers the “okay” to hold this years event with hopes that it would increase domestic tourism and generate much-needed revenue after the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic crippled Phuket’s tourist economy. Before this year’s festival, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana asked that the mah songs “limit the level of torturing.” He also called for a limit on the number of people at ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His calls were largely ignored.

The spirits will again return in 2021 to Phuket again cleanse the island’s large Thai-Chinese community.

Photos of the 2020 Vegetarian Festival by Marina Krasnopolska.

Phuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Daily News

As Phuket awaits foreign tourists, city officials are told to prepare a “response plan” in case of a second wave of Covid-19. An official from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports held a workshop in Phuket today to discuss the risk of another outbreak as the country opens up to those on the Special Tourist Visa.

The ministry’s permanent secretary Chote Trachu says now that the country is allowing tourists (who are required to quarantine upon arrival) an infection “may somehow slip through.” He says a response plan needs to be in place in case this happens, adding that there should be corporation from the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Defense.

“If any tourists are found to be infected, the disease must not be allowed to spread among the people. There should be no panic, and public health officers will investigate the case. Tourist Police will track down the suspected person in an investigation with the Ministry of Public Health.”

Chote says all provinces – not just Phuket – should have a response plan. Although tourists must go through a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival, Chote says there are some cases where the incubation period for Covid-19 is longer than 14 days.

“There are a variety of cases. Sometimes, the infection does not show after 14 days, or even 15 or 16 days. Each situation is different.”

Recently, a woman in Koh Samui tested positive for the coronavirus 5 days after she was released from a Samut Prakan quarantine facility. Traces of the virus were found on gym equipment the woman used at the quarantine, leading health officials to suspect she was infected before arriving to the island.

“We urge Thai people to not let their guard down. Everyone must wear masks, wash their hands and take care of personal hygiene. This will help prevent them from contracting the disease.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Business

Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub

Maya Taylor

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Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket - PHOTO: www.makemytrip.com

Industry officials are seeking the go-ahead for a project to transform over 140 rai of government land in Phuket into a world-leading medical hub. The project is budgeted at 3 – 4 billion baht, depending on which report you read. Kitkong Tantijaraswarodom, from the Federation of Thai Industries, believes the development of a medical and wellness hub in the sub-district of Mai Khao, north Phuket, will help revive the southern island’s battered economy. Phuket has become increasingly reliant on a steady flow of tourists over the past 2 decades.

The southern division of the FTI covers Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Patthalung, Surat Thani, Ranong, Satun, Chumphon, and Songkhla.

“The FTI will ask the government to green-light the project during the scheduled mobile cabinet meeting on the island on November 3.”

Kitkong says businesspeople in the south are anxious for the government to approve the project, which will provide both locals and foreign medical tourists with state-of-the-art medical care. The facility is expected to include long-term care, hospice and rehabilitation services, in addition to a dental hospital, sports therapy centre, and a medical training school for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory scientists.

The chair of the FTI’s southern chapter is also calling on officials to provide small and medium-sized businesses with additional support, in the form of access to loans, in order to deal with cash shortages.

“In the short term, the FTI wants the government to help SMEs, especially those in the tourism sector.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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