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.
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.