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Army scales back direct role in Phuket beach management, public transport

As the Thai military scales back its direct role in local administration within the province, Lt Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Commander of the Army Region 4, yesterday announced that responsibility for several issues in Phuket overseen by the Army will be handed over to the Phuket branch of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) before the end of May.

Isoc, of which there is a provincial office in every province in the country and serves as the political arm of the Thai military.

Among the issues mentioned as to be handed over to Isoc yesterday were enforcement of Phuket’s beach management rules, which includes the enforcement of the “10% rule”, which allows vendors at selected beaches operate on only 10% of the total beach area as covered by sand.

Other areas of interest being handed over to Isoc to monitor included Phuket’s ominous “public transport” regime, migrant workers, the fight against drugs and the suppression of human trafficking.

Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Commander of the Fourth Army Region base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, which is the leading Army base in all of Southern Thailand, delivered the news at a meeting held Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday (May 10).

Present to receive the news were Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana and Isoc Phuket branch Director Rear Admiral Therdkiat Onmuang.

Gen Poonsawat explained that the move to hand over responsibility for the “areas of interest” was due to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) having no more authority to issue orders sometime this month.

Gen Poonsawat was not specific in when the NCPO will deem itself as having no authority.

Regarding the beach management issue, of which Phuket is the only province in the country to implement, Gen Pornsak said after the meeting, “In the case of the request by sunbed operators to expand the used on the beaches to be more than 10% (see story here), I think this should be done only during the [tourism] high season to make a better impression for tourists.

“But when entering the low season, sunbed operators should reduce their operations to the same as usual [back within the 10% zones],” he added.

“But that depends on the Phuket Governor, who is the president of the provincial beach management committee, to decide that they will be allowed to or not,” Gen Pornsak said.

Regarding issues involving Phuket’s “public transport” – which is fully comprised privately run tuk-tuk, taxi, passenger van and bus cartels – a representative from the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) delivered a report at the meeting, noted a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department.

The PLTO had worked with relevant agencies including the army, police and local administrative organisations to enforce laws and regulations regarding driving licenses, service standards, dress codes and public vehicle parking areas, said the representative, according to the PR report,

“In the beginning there were some problems but later operations improved accordingly,” the officer, unnamed by the PR report, said.

The PLTO had been involved in a project to provide 10,000 shirts for “public vehicle drivers” (sic), the report said.

Subsequent checks found that 95% of Phuket’s public vehicle drivers abided by the dress code, the report added.

Also at the meeting, Sarayuth Mallam, now serving as president of the Phuket branch of the Tourism Council of Thailand, called on the PLTO to increase transportation routes to boost connectivity across the island, si that fewer people use their private vehicles, which will reduce traffic congestion and the incidence of road accidents.
The Phuket News



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