PHUKET TOWN: Growing numbers of Trade Fairs traveling into and around Phuket are damaging the business of many local shops, according to the Phuket Merchants Association. They say they have been receiving waves of complaints from the shops and that some have had to close down, unable to compete with the marketing power and pricing practices of the fairs. A committee comprised of representatives from the Phuket Provincial Commercial Office, the Phuket Internal Trade Department, the Phuket Chamber of Commerce and the Phuket Merchants Association was established in July of last year to deal with the “problem.” But the committee, chaired by Vice Governor Vongsak Swasdipanich, has had little success to date since the fairs are staged on private property and conduct their business, including the payment of taxes, lawfully. Mr Somboon Kupongsakorn, head of the Phuket Merchants Association, says the goal is not to rid Phuket of the fairs, but rather to find a way in which the fairs and the local shops can happily coexist. “If we don’t tackle the problems, more and more local merchants are going to go out of business. So we are asking for help from the government,” he said. But Governor Vongsak told the Gazette on Monday that the private sector, acting through the Phuket Merchants Association, the Phuket Chamber of Commerce and other channels, must join hands to solve the problem since the government’s ability to do so is limited. “The trade fairs operate from private premises owned by well-known local businessmen. We have checked and find that they operate lawfully in every respect,” he said, noting in particular that the fairs are clean, dispose of their garbage correctly, and conform with traffic regulations.
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