Dr Chockchai’s whirlwind romance with Phuket, his “dream” posting, began in late September last year, just weeks before the country would be plunged into mourning. To his credit, Dr Chockchai fulfilled his duty as the Phuket’s highest official admirably and has helped guide the island through this difficult period calmly and competently.
But is wasn’t long before the many critical issues that face Phuket reared their hydra-like heads and forced Dr Chockchai to take a position. First came the old chestnut of virgin beaches, which initially seemed like a cut-and-dried issue to the Governor – the law calls for virgin beaches, therefore we shall have virgin beaches, he said, with a charming innocence that would soon be confronted by the reality of Phuket.
His first backtrack on the beaches, to allow 10% zones to be re-established, set the tone for the many rude awakenings he would receive during his tenure as Governor of Phuket. Again, to his credit, the Governor was quick to correctly identify some of the major problems in Phuket.
He announced his “Top Five issues” to tackle as: “Organising” Phuket’s beaches; taxi management; land encroachment and wastewater management; mafia and entertainment venues; and gambling and corruption. A good start, but let’s not forget sea gypsy land rights, lack of public transport, illegal hotels, waste management and road safety.
It’s a pretty big laundry list for any politician to tackle, but Dr Chockchai gave it a red hot go. He declared a war on motorbike-riders without helmets, told illegal hotels they would be demolished if they didn’t register, championed a local business consortium’s plans for a public transport network, signed a petition to the PM asking to extend trading hours in Bangla Rd, launched Keep Phuket Clean’, ordered probes into corrupt officials and launched recycling initiatives.
Wow, did he really do all that in six months? I hear you say. Well... not exactly, but he certainly did say that’s what he was doing. For an official that can be arbitrarily moved from his position after less than six months on a whim of the PM, with no reason given, that’s about all he could have done.