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Tsunami-hit residents “must pay rent’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Tsunami-hit residents “must pay rent’ | The Thaiger

KAMALA: More than 300 residents gathered yesterday evening to hear Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura explain why they must start paying rent on land where they have lived for many years rent-free.

Addressing the meeting at Kamala Police Station, Gov Udomsak said, “Government policy is to bring back tourists by reorganizing beaches and public places. If the places are restored and improved so they look better, the tourists will come back soon.

“The number of tourists coming to Phuket is 80% down on normal. We are trying to implement government policy as soon as possible, but this does depend on help from local residents as well.”

Gov Udomsak told the protesters it had already been decided to widen the waterfront road to eight metres, and that residents would have had to move back from the high water mark and the public road anyway.

And, he added, “You have been living here illegally because you have encroached on public land; now we are giving you the chance to live here legally, by renting the land from the government.”

He pointed out that the rent for the land would be just 1,000 baht a year. “You used to earn as much as 100,000 baht a year,” he said, “Can’t you pay even this small amount of money?”

The Governor tried to reassure the residents that they would have security of tenure, as the land could be handed down from generation to generation, with the rental contracts being checked every five years to ensure they stayed in order.

He said, “There will be no problem in renewing the contracts. You can live on the land for 30, 60 years, and on into the future. This is fair, and the right way to do things in Thailand.”

And, he warned, “If you still don’t want to do this, you should find some other land to rent or live on legally. But if you still want to live here, you should follow the regulations.”

He continued, “If you hold land titles legally, there won’t be any problem. But if you don’t, well, the same rule applies everywhere, even at Bang Tao and other beaches.”

However, resident Chai Tiangnoi said, “Renting means we don’t have something that we can call our own.

“We have been living here for a long time, but all of a sudden, we’re told we have to rent our place from the government. I’m not even sure which is government land. We’ll have to discuss later whether we are prepared to rent this land or not.

“Kamala used to be a nice place for tourists, but now the government is trying to stop us from doing anything like rebuild our homes. Will the tourists come here if there is nothing here?”

Kathu District Chief Kanthee Sinlapa suggested that, to settle the dispute, residents be offered long-term rental agreements, or that the status of the land be changed so that it is no longer state land, and land titles could be issued for it.

The Governor, however, was adamant that no one would be allowed to start re-building a house before signing a rental agreement, although they would be allowed to repair damaged homes, for the time being at least.

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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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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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