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Phuket Opinion: Starting over

PHUKET: New Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew arrived on the island on Friday and started making the right noises before he walked through the front door of Provincial Hall. Just being aware of the huge number of people in need in Phuket because they have been left high and dry by the restrictions enforced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a good place to start.

opinionCOVID-19tourismeconomicshealth
By The Phuket News

Sunday 21 June 2020, 09:00AM


Governor Narong Woonchiew at Phuket Provincial Hall on his first day as Governor of Phuket on Friday (Jun 19). Photo: Supplied

Governor Narong Woonchiew at Phuket Provincial Hall on his first day as Governor of Phuket on Friday (Jun 19). Photo: Supplied

By the end of the day he had been briefed about the COVID situation on the island by the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), and instead of bleating on about the number of people tested and the great work done by our island’s officials, he recognised the efforts by volunteers and that what people here need to show potential tourists is that all sectors of the community are COVID compliant.

That one factor alone can boost confidence among Thais elsewhere in the country first, and international tourists later, so that those who do have funds and the inclination to come to Phuket will not have to counter that argument when deciding whether or not to come here even for a short holiday. The message is boring, it is repeated ad nauseam – and yes, it is needed.

These are good early signs from our new Governor and we hope this continues, and keep in mind that this not from a person elected to office, he is Bangkok’s leading representative on the island. The position of Provincial Governor in Thailand is an odd one, as the sole job is to make sure that instructions from superior-ranking bureaucrats in the capital are being carried out at the provincial level. For some reason the fact that every single government office all 76 provinces each have their own superior-ranking officials in their own ministries and government departments seems not to matter regarding this position.

Regardless, what Mr Narong has up his sleeve is that he originally hails from Phattalung, a province that borders both Trang and Satun provinces, as well as Songkhla and Nakhon Sri Thammarat. It is very difficult to have any links to any of those provinces and not know that Phuket is different. Phuket has been exposed to Western thinking for so long that the expectation for problems to be tackled locally, and directly, has seeped into much of, but admittedly not all, the local mindset.

Kvik Phuket

This was clearly not appreciated by Mr Narong’s predecessor, whose handling of the COVID-19 restriction orders alone saw Thai locals openly publicly criticise him for his performance. Even his parting gift to the island was a notice announcing that people entering or leaving Phuket are longer required to register their travel details through the gophuget.com web platform. That notice is not even being publicly recognised by the Phuket Provincial Police themselves, the very law-enforcement branch tasked with upholding that requirement.

What many newly arrived Governors to Phuket over the years have often misunderstood is that people are not looking for a Governor to land on the island and fix all the island’s problems in one fell swoop. That will not happen. What people are looking for at the very least is clear communication and a genuine concern for the people who live here.

Everyone knows that officials in Bangkok call many of the shots around here, even when they say decisions are being left to provincial governors to make. Our previous Governor publicly recognised this only once. He should have explained that with every issue that he was being held accountable for when in reality he was not involved in the final decision at all. All that was required to gain people’s understanding was a little more honesty in explaining matters to the public, and not issuing orders at the last hour – or even seemingly backdated – without any notice so people could prepare.

We wish Governor Narong the very best during his term in Phuket. He has arrived on the island during hard times. The coming 12 months at the least will test not only his ability as an public administrator, but also his principles as a person and his duty of care for the community is tasked with overseeing. Welcome to Phuket, Governor Narong.

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ThorFinger | 21 June 2020 - 20:56:19

The new Governor is quite right in what he is endeavouring to do, however the reality is a closed Island that has an opportunity to start international tourism slowly meaning we can keep a check on any outbreaks. Remember, it is not the authorities that will defeat this virus, it is business owners banding together to ensure we never lockdown again, because that will ensure we all go bankrupt.

ThorFinger | 21 June 2020 - 20:51:43

I admire the tenacity I'm very unsure of the reasoning. International countries won't trust Thailand regardless of covid19 measures...some just plain silly when the virus only lives up to 19 days (in a lab), which means the virus has been dead here for a couple of weeks at least; in their eyes it is their lack of trust in the Thai authorities.

ericphuket | 21 June 2020 - 09:10:51

A new brush always cleans well, lets see if he has the balls to implement what most Phuket people need now, open to International tourism  so that they get back their jobs and not have to stay in line for a meal

 

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