Phuket still pushing for independence
PHUKET: Following on from Patong’s plea to be freed of the dead hand of the bureaucracy, the drive to turn Phuket into a special administrative region (SAR) got another push last week at a conference in Songkhla.
Tuesday 31 July 2012, 10:51AM
After the conference, on Provincial Reform in Southern Thailand, Chanwech Chotikijsomboon, representing Phuket Jadkarn Ton Eng (Phuket Self-Government) said one of the island’s goals should be to convert Phuket into a self-governing entity with a legislative assembly comprising local citizens. (See earlier story here.)
This will not be easy, he said.
“Phuket has tried to change its status to one of self-government many times in the past. In 1983, a bill was proposed to Parliament, entitled ‘Phuket and Independent Management’.
In 1988, an act was drafted, the Phuket Metropolitan Management Act, by Wira Musikapongs and Tawin Praisont.
“In 1994, the Phuket Provincial Council, Phuket Chamber of Commerce, and the Phuket Town municipal government proposed that as the basis for creating a Metropolis of Phuket (Phuket Maha Nakorn).
“In 1998, Associate Professor Wootisarn Tanchai headed a working group from Thammasat University that surveyed local opinion on the subject.
“When Pongpayome Wasaputi was Phuket governor, during the government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a seminar was held in 2002 entitled The Role of Phuket’s CEO Governor.”
After the fall of Thaksin, his successor, Samak Sundaravej proposed that Phuket have a 15-member provincial council.
None of these initiatives went anywhere.
Mr Chanwech noted that the problem of increasing inequality on the island can be better addressed if the government is truly local, adding that issues related to the environment, unsustainable development, and social dysfunction are difficult to work out when those charged with the task “lack efficiency” in their operations, because they are forced to work under laws that “allow little input from the people.”
“In the past, some steps have been taken towards really local government, notably the creation of a central news office to promote knowledge and understanding among the people,” said Chanwech, “and to build momentum for self-government in Phuket. The people have responded quite positively to these steps.”
He said it is time now for the central government “to show the way”, citing development, knowledge-building, budget appropriations, and co-operative effort as areas in which locals need help.
“If the government supports our project, problems arising from confused development will gradually be reduced,” he said.
The deputy director of the Reform Office, Wanee Pinprateeb, said her office no longer used the phrase ‘provincial self-government’: “We now use the phrase ‘returning power to the people’,” she explained.
“Provinces being viewed for self-government include Chiang Mai in the north and Amnat Jaroen in Isarn. Should Phuket be proposed as the southern province having self-government, the Reform Office will be happy to support the proposal.
“First, however, we want to see the plans, the system of government proposed, and the goals clearly specified.”
Wanee said her office is charged with supporting development of self-government and is pleased to help “full realisation of the hopes and expectations of Phuket people”.
– Source: Siang Tai