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Phuket Opinion: Money Road

PHUKET: Preechawude ‘Prab’ Keesin and associates set the cat amongst the pigeons this week in calling for donations to complete a road up Patong Hill that crosses private land.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 6 November 2022, 06:00AM

An aerial view of the road under construction from Chalong to Patong. Photo: Phuket Info Center

An aerial view of the road under construction from Chalong to Patong. Photo: Phuket Info Center

The road is already under construction, and according to reports will reach the Chao Pho Seua Shrine, also commonly called the ‘Tiger Temple’, at the top of the hill, today (Nov 6).

As of yesterday, the consortium was calling for every person in Phuket to donate just B30 to the project. The pocket change donated will be enough to pay for the road, Mr Prab said.

By “inviting all 414,471 registered residents in Phuket” to make a B30 donation, Mr Prab yesterday obliquely confirmed that the road is estimated to cost some B12.4 million (B12,434,130).

The call for donations followed Mr Prab on Wednesday (Nov 2) handing over a donation of B300,000 to an undisclosed agency to have the road built, with official reports not explaining exactly what the money is for considering Mr Prab at the handover event himself explained that the road is being paid for out of private funds.

It would be nice for the Phuket government to clarify exactly which person, organisation or government office received the B300,000 ‒ especially for a provincial government that was declared the least corrupt in the country in a national annual assessment of government agencies by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) only last December.

Further, not explained so far is how much of the B12.4mn price tag will go towards not just the clearing of the route, the compacting of the dirt and the laying of asphalt, but also towards any reinforcement of embankments beside the road and any drainage installed to ensure unsuspecting residents below don’t suddenly find themselves victims of landslides or flooding during the rainy season next year.

The road under construction is being touted as offering an alternative route up Patong Hill from the Kathu side that will benefit everyone. Well, it will certainly benefit some more than others.

Mr Prab on Wednesday emphasized the point that many people, namely landowners, had made “sacrifices” in order to allow the road to be built across their land. Not mentioned by Mr Prab was how much land prices for those plots will escalate once the road has been built. Further, land prices for any adjoining plots that will have access to the new road will also skyrocket ‒ think “luxury hillside villa just 10 minutes’ drive to Patong” and the prices that accompany such projects.

Yet what stands to be made by landowners and developers from this road pales in comparison to the money to be made from the road being carved over the hills from Chalong to Patong. As seen by the plethora of photos posted by government agencies highlighting the construction of the road, any plots near the top of the hills stand of have sea views of both Phuket’s east and west coasts. Now that’s real money.

The Chalong-Patong road is being built by the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO). The PPAO has done much good work for residents on the island since PPAO President Rewat Areerob took office in February last year. However, this project raises more than a few questions.

The Phuket News has yet to see a report confirming exactly how much is being spent on creating the road. Further, the initial announcement that the road was intended to be “only temporary” have been proved plainly false by the rate of progress made by the road-building crew. The road was initially announced to be open “within two weeks”. The public was told that the road was hoped to be opened to traffic roughly by tomorrow (Nov 7).

Mr Rewat announcing Monday last week (Oct 31) that the PPAO now intended the road to become “permanent” even at that time were plainly evident by the progress made in construction. The construction crew from the outset were obviously already moving ahead with plans to build much more than a “temporary road”. As far as this road is concerned, the fix was in before the public knew anything about it.

As with Mr Prab & Co’s road up Patong Hill, the Chalong-Patong road is being heavily promoted as an alternative route to Patong “to alleviate the suffering of people and tourists” ‒ yet the real winners will be landowners and property developers, who together stand to make a windfall by these so-called “public benefit” projects.

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To put into perspective how much money stands to be made from the ensuing property development after these roads are built, the Muang Mai-Koh Kaew-Kathu Expressway project at last report in 2020 was budgeted to cost B30 billion, equating to roughly B1.339bn per kilometre for the-then reported 22.4km route. That’s more than US$35.9 million per kilometre for a road that is crossing what was ‒ before the announcement of the project ‒ likely amongst the cheapest land on the island.

Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC) President Thanusak Phungdet in 2020 revealed that B12bn is to be allocated for the actual construction costs and the remaining B18bn to be used to acquire the land for the project to be built.

In comparison, Cabinet has approved a budget of ‘only’ B14.67 billion for the Patong Tunnel project, and at that price they still have to cut a hole through the hill.

The expressway is to travel down the centre of the island, across land that has no sea views and no immediate access to any popular attractions or beaches, and as we have seen this year, it is prone to flooding. There are no major developments along the route simply because even the most opportunistic developers have thought there was no point.

Where suspicions of profiteering from that project come into play is that in March 2017 Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Transport Minister at the time, announced the construction costs for the project at about B13bn. That figure has not changed.

Yet Mr Arkhom noted that the project was ready to roll out. “The road will be finished by 2018,” he said. That never happened, with no explanations, other than the incredible cost of acquiring the land that has come into play since. It is very difficult to believe that is a coincidence.

Of note, Mr Arkhom, who has served as Thailand’s Finance Minister since 2020, detailed all the transport mega-projects being touted by officials today in his address to Phuket people in 2017.

Even at that time he described the need for the projects as “critical”, and presented the projects ‒ light rail, Patong tunnel and the Muang Mai-Kathu expressway ‒ as costing a total of B71bn.

“When we compare this cost with the B300 to 400 billion that Phuket generates each year, it is worth it,” he said.

Those figures represent the income actually realised through tourists’ spending, not the inflated figures given tourism officials who include the “multiplier effect” of the tourists’ spending circulating through the economy.

Perhaps Mr Arkhom did not realise that he was pointing out that at that time Phuket made enough money from tourism in one year to pay for all the mega-projects four times over. And still the central government failed to deliver. The projects were delayed, and now it seems obvious why.

In all this, Mr Prab and associates have one thing on their side: at least they are not asking the taxpayer to fund a project that will line the pockets of only a handful of individuals.

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Old guy | 07 November 2022 - 12:15:39

@JohnC. Stay focused. I'm talking THIS project, THIS time. The scrutiny would be there and the current owners would certainly receive more than if there was no development.
BTW, you know the current road repairs will take longer, cost more, and be poorly done, so the pain of a bad road will continue far into the future 
2nd BTW. JohnC. NOW you're worried about corruption? 

Fascinated | 07 November 2022 - 11:37:36

dKK defends the mafia again- he really does live in an Ivory Tower, dancing til dawn when 4am comes in. All part of the Empire and corruption he defends. 

Kurt | 07 November 2022 - 10:39:33

The 'Keesin Road construction was a secret set up, with of course full knowledge of Provincial Hall and Land Office. A perfect show of how the corrupt feet walk on Phuket. A road constructed in such a fast way during 'High Wet Season' is a triple sub standard safety track. Happy times coming for repair sub contractors, paid by Officialdom with 'appreciation', of course.

DeKaaskopp | 07 November 2022 - 09:29:24

Wondering how many of those "Prab" hater will actually use that road ? Wouldn't be surprised if they all do. Bunch of hypocrites !

JohnC | 07 November 2022 - 08:40:46

@oldguy. Profit from corruption is far worse than bad. The original land owners next to major projects will already have had their properties stolen at ridiculously cheap prices by those same corrupt developers and gov officials. I know Thais who were forced with death threats to sell land in Patong at 1/5 the real value by these so-called scions. I asked why they sold, they wanted to stay alive..

Capricornball | 06 November 2022 - 22:16:54

Khun Prab is an opportunist of the lowest order, always at the ready to take advantage of his country in crisis, then painting himself as the benevolent hero. But Prab can't do his dirty deeds without the backing of every dirty official willing to fill his pockets, and a corrupt police force which always has it's hand out for ill-gotten gains. Disgusting, all of it.

Old guy | 06 November 2022 - 20:07:21

What's Phuket News' point?
Anyone who owns land next to a major project will profit in non-corrupt countries. Why shouldn't they in Thailand?
So, why is PN concerned?
Is PN going to miss some of the $$ by this road being built outside the regular corrupt channels?
Profit isn't bad. Corruption is. 

H2538 | 06 November 2022 - 17:44:28

Least corrupt province. Well well, it is nothing new that some people try to rewrite both facts, historical and current culture, and often the reason is business-driven. 

Old guy | 06 November 2022 - 17:14:03

What's Phuket News point?
Anyone who owns land next to a major project will profit in non-corrupt countries. Why shouldn't they in Thailand?
So, why is PN concerned?
Is PN going to miss some of the $$ by this road being built outside the regular corrupt channels?
Profit isn't bad. Corruption is. 

Kurt | 06 November 2022 - 15:33:43

If Phuket really has the cultivated name of being the least corrupted province of all Thai provinces than there is no hope for/to developing Thailand, bring it into a modern sincere future. Pity the poor Thai people. They never will be lifted to a normal middle class life. Corruption keeps them poor.

Fascinated | 06 November 2022 - 12:57:15

Being the 'least corrupt' Province is not really something to crow about tbh.

Fascinated | 06 November 2022 - 12:55:06

This family has never done anything for the 'good of the community'. They are just interested in feathering their own and their cronies nests (wish a few envelopes thrown into the process as well). this stench rises right up to the top of the hill. Follow the money!

Prab | 06 November 2022 - 11:42:15

this article nailed perfectly.. wonder who will be there for the opening picture? will the clown Narong show off with a baskeball hat looking like a tourist looking around the area? lol 

BosysurfNaiHarn | 06 November 2022 - 09:13:25

Isn't there still a limitation to the height above sea level that structures can be built? What agency will be held accountable for enforcement of this "law"? Can you interview this agency, Governour,  PACC, ACC and Military, to get their comment on record before anyone attempts to break this "law"?


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