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Tangled trouble in Paradise

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Tangled trouble in Paradise | The Thaiger

PHUKET TOWN: Thirty owners of businesses in the market area of Patong’s Paradise Complex descended on the Consumer Protection Office at the Provincial Hall on Monday morning to protest construction by the Royal Paradise Hotel, which they say has blocked access to their shops with thigh-high walls made of concrete blocks. The protest is the latest turn in a tale that has as many twists as a pretzel. The protest leader, Dr Sakda Ruamrungsee of the Andaman Medical Center, told the Gazette that the area in front of the shops used to be a pedestrian area. “Now, the complex’s owner is building on it, which is blocking shop entrances,” he said. “On September 14, we handed the Governor a petition asking him to investigate the construction going on in the complex. Four weeks later, the Governor suspended the construction after finding out that Patong Municipality had not issued a building permit for the project. Construction was banned pending Patong Municipality approving the project,” he explained. “We asked for further action since Patong Municipality has not enforced the Governor’s order; and building [in the complex] continued over the weekend,” said Dr Sakda. Suwat Boonchanawiwat, Chief of the Construction Section of Patong Municipality, denied that the municipality had failed to take action. “We received a complaint on September 14,” he said, “and informed the Paradise Complex they must stop building. When we went to check, there was no construction going on.” However, Dr Jirachai Amornpyroj, GM of Royal Paradise Hotel in Patong, which owns the land on which the Paradise Complex is built, told the Gazette yesterday that his company had not been ordered to stop building. “We have already applied to Patong Municipality for a building permit, which is currently being considered, and we have not been ordered to stop building. “We continued construction while waiting for the permit, which we believe will be approved soon, because we didn’t want to waste time.” Now, however, he said, “We have stopped any further construction until we receive the building permit.” He explained, “About two years ago, the area used to be full of bar beers, but they’re not there anymore. The hotel recently received complaints from guests that the area looked dangerous at night. So we decided to convert it into a food court and night plaza.” He agreed that the business owners might have suffered from the construction, but pointed out, “The purchase contract for each of their buildings says that the buyer owns 12 square wah (48 square meters) of land [and that] the owners of businesses in the complex have rights only to the interiors of their buildings.” But, he explained, “Some have built awnings that extend into the area [outside their shops], or put cooking equipment or tables and chairs there. They don’t have any rights under the awnings extending out from their shops.” An officer at the Provincial Consumer Protection Office, who asked not to be named, said on Tuesday, “About a week after we received the business owners’ first complaint, we invited the owner of the Paradise Complex to come and discuss the problem, and to present his building permit. “He arrived for the meeting, but said that he would show us the building permit later. We’re still waiting to see it.” He said that the office would look into the matter further, but added, “If the owner has the legal right to build on the land in question, then we will not take any action against him.” Patong Municipality’s Suwat said, “We asked the business owners to produce documents to prove that the Paradise Complex does not have the right to construct anything on that land. “The Paradise Complex has already submitted its design for approval, but we can’t approve it until the problem with the business owners has been sorted out. “According to the documents supplied by the Paradise Complex, there’s nothing wrong, but we have asked them to make some changes to the design, which they haven’t sent back to us yet. “If the design is corrected and if the business owners fail to prove that there is anything else wrong, then we may issue the permit – provided there are no other problems.”

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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