The philanthropist posted an image of a tangle of wires hanging from a power pole on his blog GatesNotes and wrote: “Due to faulty infrastructure, many urban areas suffer from frequent blackouts and power cuts, and the electrical grid often doesn’t serve the people who need it most.
“I’ve visited many cities filled with tangled wires such as those in this photo from Thailand, where people have illegally tapped into the grid on their own to get the power they need – at great personal risk.”
Blowback across the internet quickly pointed out that the cable tangle in the photo posted by Mr Gates was a jumble of telecommunication wires, not actual power cables, but officials in Bangkok took the point to heart and by Tuesday (July 5) had announced a B51.7 billion project to bury 147 kilometres of power cables throughout the capital over the next five years.
Yet Phuket will not see one baht from Bangkok to achieve the same.
“We will not get any part of those funds,” Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongthada told The Phuket News this week.
“We are trying to organise all utilities cables to make the streets look better, but I have yet to receive any official notice that Phuket will receive any budget to tackle this problem,” he added.
“We have just finished one project to bury cables underground in Phuket Town involving the Phuket and the local municipality. Next, we will do the same in Patong soon,” he said.
Suthep Jitseree, Manager of PEA office in Phuket Town, explained, “We are not getting extra funds because we are the PEA, and the decision to spend that money to bury cables in Bangkok was made by the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA).
“However, the project to bury cables along Thalang Rd is finished, and we are still installing the cables underground along Yaowarat Rd, Dibuk Rd and Thepkrasattri Rd,” Mr Suthep said.
Watcharin Prapa, Manager of the PEA office in Patong, confirmed that his office will receive nothing from the push to bury cables. “But the B200 million project to install cables underground along Thaweewong Rd (the Patong beachfront road) is going ahead,” he said.
“We will have a second public hearing later this month, after the first public hearing in June failed to gain public approval,” he added.
The Patong “mass burial of cables” project aims to install cables underground along three kilometres of Thaweewong Rd. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with a contractor last year, but since then the project has met some opposition.
The project is estimated to take about 18 months, “But we can’t even estimate when construction will begin until the approval process is complete,” Mr Watchanrin said.
Opposition to the project stemmed from concerns over how cables will be installed underground, among other factors, he explained.
“The are also concerns over the how the cables are going to be installed and the equipment to be used to carry out the project,” he said.
Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup noted that the project was to start in April last year.
“I wish the PEA would start this project soon. It should have started in April 2016, but it still has not gone ahead.
“I will arrange to meet with the PEA Governor in Bangkok about this. If we are late again in pushing this through, this project might be postponed and not even be started this year,” Mayor Chalermluck added.