The crackdown began last Monday (Jan 30), with all bars along Bangla Rd forced to close at midnight and nightclubs to kick patrons out into the street at 1am.
The reaction by the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) was swift, with PEBA President Weerawit Krueasombut and Patong scion Preechawude “Prab” Keesin, head of the Pisona Group of companies, along with 20 other night venue operators two days later filing a formal petition addressed to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for extended trading hours in the entertainment district. (See stories here and here.)
“We have prepared a formal request to be sent to the Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry asking for consideration to allow entertainment businesses along Bangla Rd only to stay open – and sell alcohol – until 4am,” Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) Thawornwat Khongkaew, told The Phuket News on Wednesday (Feb 8).
The request is for Bangla Rd only, Mr Thawornwat confirmed.
“This because Bangla Rd is a very special tourist area,” he said.
Mr Thawornwat was part of the joint law-enforcement team with Patong Police Chief Col Chaiwat Uikum and Kathu District Chief Chief Sayan Chanachaiwong who raided the bars and clubs on Jan 30.
“The petition submitted by the Patong nightlife venue operators will be attached with our official letter, which must be signed by Phuket Governor,” Mr Thawornwat said.
The Governor, Chockchai Dejamornthan, however, is away in South Korean until Saturday (Feb 11), Mr Thawornwat said on Wednesday.
“I will follow up on this with the Governor as soon as practicably possible and follow this up with the Interior Ministry. We are hoping for a formal response before the end of this month,” Mr Thawornwat said.
Phuket Vice Governor Siwaporn Chuasawad told The Phuket News that Gov Chockchai rated the issue a top priority.
“Governor Chockchai wants to defuse the stress from this situation,” she said.
“The feedback from this is that the crackdown also had a direct effect on many people who in the Patong nightlife industry,” she added.
Mr Thawornwat added, “This is an uncomfortable situation in a tourism area. I think it is a good idea if there is special zone set up. If the nightlife venues are able to stay open legally, then tourists can enjoy themselves in a safe area.
“Most tourists go out on Bangla Rd at about 11pm. If the entertainment area closes at midnight, where they will go? They might just keep drinking beside the road or on the beach, which risks their safety and only encourages criminals,” he said.
“If this special zone is approved to stay open until 4 am, tourists will remain in an area where the police and officials are able to look after them. They will be safe,” he added.