Rawai to move ahead with “Sea Natural History Museum’

RAWAI: In a bid to simultaneously preserve local flora and boost tourism, Rawai Municipality is renewing efforts to build a “Thai Island and Sea Natural History Museum” on 271 rai of government land north of the viewpoint at Laem Phromthep.

Phuket Vice-Governor Smith Palawatwichai presided over a meeting on the new initiative on Tuesday morning at the Rawai Municipality Offices.

Also attending were Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos, Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Eam Thavornwongwong, and representatives of the Governor’s Office, Land Office, Satree Phuket School, Third Naval Area Command, Prince of Songkhla University (PSU) and Phuket Rajabhat University.

Many of those present were members of the original project board when the idea was first proposed by K. Aroon in 2003, when Rawai was still administrated under a tambon administration organization (OrBorTor). Not long after the project was announced, however, it stalled for lack of funding – then estimated at 700 million baht.

Mayor Aroon reminded fellow committee members that the idea for the museum came to him after a meeting with renowned conservationist Dr Phisit Woraurai, chairman of the advisory committee to the Office of the Royal Projects Development Board, one project of which is the Plant Genetic Conservation Project under the patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

K. Aroon has long wanted to set aside the land near Laem Phromthep as a natural garden and to protect the area from encroachment.

“Rawai has about 2,800 rai of government land designated as common pasture land. We have earmarked 271 rai at Khao Dang, between Nong Harn Lake and Laem Phromthep, for this project. There is still no encroachment in the area and the project is ready to move forward,” he said.

The Rawai OrBorTor in 2003 conducted a 4-million-baht survey of the land and the project was listed in the provincial development plan by then-Governor Pongpayome Vasaputi.

Under the original master plan, the project would comprise 100 rai of woodland, 80 rai of botanical gardens and a 40-rai zoo stocked with indigenous Andaman region wildlife.

The museum, including all exhibition and display areas, would cover 31 rai, while the remaining area would be for infrastructure and related facilities, K. Aroon said.

Even with Ministry of Interior (MoI) support, funding continues to be the main obstacle to the project.

A new feasibility study would need to be conducted to determine how much the project would cost today. The project could be developed in phases as the needed funding became available, K. Aroon explained.

After the meeting, Mayor Aroon told the Gazette that V/Gov Smith agreed with the plan. “We would like to start this project as soon as possible, but because it is so huge we will need help from many organizations, both in the private and government sectors,” K. Aroon noted.

He added that he plans to ask the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) for part of the funding, while Satree Phuket School and Phuket Rajabhat University are expected to help organize exhibits once construction is complete.

“I’ll start by requesting MoI permission to build the project. After that we’ll have building plans drawn up, estimate the budget and get down to fundraising,” said Mayor Aroon.

If built, the “Sea Natural History Museum” will not be the first of its kind in Thailand. Another with the same name is already nearing completion at Samaesan in Chonburi’s Sattahip district.

Phuket News
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