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VIDEO Report: Phuket officials unveil “drive-thru’ preview of Patong Tunnel

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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VIDEO Report: Phuket officials unveil “drive-thru’ preview of Patong Tunnel | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT), commissioned to roll out the Patong Tunnel project, has released a video highlighting the preferred route the tunnel will take through the Phuket hills separating the Kathu valley from the beachside resort town of Patong.

The preferred route was chosen after a panel of experts investigated three major factors in the selection process, explained Kanok Khemnak, managing director of Enrich Consultants Co Ltd, which was hired to carry out the evaluation of seven possible routes.


Patong Tunnel Meeting. Video courtesy of Patong Municipality

“The first category of factors considered was engineering and traffic, in which we considered the length of the route, the aesthetics of the project, the efficiency of the construction to be undertaken and safety aspects,” Mr Kanok explained.

The category was attributed 30 per cent weighting in the entire decision process, he added.

Also granted 30 per cent weighting were economic and investment factors, which included project cost and revenue-generating ability.

“The last factor was the environmental effect. This was attributed 40 per cent weighting,” Mr Kanok explained.

“Route 2 is the best choice. It scored 72.49 from a maximum of 100 points. This is the route for which we will compile and present an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA],” he added.

The route chosen and presented to a public meeting last week was the same one that stirred strong opposition from residents of Baan Mon in Patong in April, many of whom will have to be relocated from their family homes to make way for the mega-project (click here for story).

“We want to focus on traffic and safety. There is no need to build a tunnel. We [Baan Mon residents] have already suggested that it would be better to improve Route 4029 [Phra Barami Road, over Patong Hill],” one local resident said at the meeting.

“But if you are determined to build a tunnel, we already suggested Route 7 in order to make the road and tunnel as straight as possible to reduce the likelihood of accidents,” he added.


Patong tunnel CGI plan. Video courtesy of Patong Municipality

Patong Mayor Pian Keesin pointed out that Route 7 was ruled out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as the route affected a protected water source in the hills.

“I have spent more than 10 years trying to improve Route 4029. The best solution is what you are looking at right now,” he said.

Another public feedback meeting is slated to be held before the end of the month.

“At that meeting we will decide on the exact route the tunnel and approach roads will take. We will also have to discuss with residents how to minimize the impact on them and negotiate the rates for expropriating the properties required to build the project,” Mr Kanok explained.

“There will be a final public feedback hearing in August to summarize the overall plan. We expect to propose this project to Cabinet before the end of this year,” he said.

“The survey is to be completed before July and we will design the route in detail by May 2014. Construction will start in 2017 and we expect to complete the project in 2018 with a total budget of 6 to 7 billion baht,” Mr Kanok said.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s local news section, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @PhuketGazette for the latest local news.

— Saran Mitrarat

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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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