PHUKET’S new Governor, Wichai Praisa-Ngob has made the island’s traffic problems his
Governor Wichai, who replaced former Governor Dr Preecha Ruangjan, two weeks ago, has already started making plans to ease congestion problems at the Central Festival intersection and the Heroines’ Monument.
“Plans for a tunnel under the road outside Central Festival are already in place, but this will take maybe two years to build, and it will be very expensive,” he said.
“Traffic at this intersection is a big problem right now.”
Governor Wichai said he would like to see a similar bridge to the Thai-Belgium Bridge in Bangkok, which would be used only by cars, and not trucks or bikes.
“This strategy will help us solve the problem faster,” he said.
“A bridge would take only three months to build, and our traffic problems have to be solved quickly.”
“We must think about how to solve the traffic problem before we think about anything else.
“When it comes to beauty, the big advertising boards on the roadside are not nice to look at, and they don’t benefit the majority of the people.
“Only the businesses which advertise on them benefit from those billboards.
“Compared to them, a bridge would not look so bad, and it would benefit the local people.”
Governor Wichai said another traffic trouble spot was around the Heroine’s Monument at Thalang.
“The Monument is the main gateway into Phuket, and the traffic system there needs
“A lot of tourists have missed their flights because of the traffic which has a bad effect on Phuket’s reputation.
“It could also lead to tourists not coming back again.”
Governor Wichai is also planning to revise the u-turn system currently in place on Phuket’s main roads.
“Overpass u-turns would be more beneficial,” he said.
Governor Wichai also wants to limit the hours during which big trucks can drive on minor roads.
“One solution would be to ban big trucks during the rush hours between 7am and 9am, and between 3pm and 4pm, when schools are closing.”
He is also keen to retain Phuket’s identity and reputation as an idyllic tropical destination, and he wants to build a landmark that tourists will identify with Phuket.
“Paris has its Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, and we need to think about what we will have.”
Governor Wichai said he wanted people to know what Phuket had to offer, not by messages on big bill boards, but letting the people of Phuket take pride in the province, and letting them decide how we should move forward.
He said the Goddess of Mercy project was well under way, and the statue of the Goddess had already arrived from Taiwan.
But he said further funding of about 200 million baht was still needed to complete the project which will be sited off Sapan Hin.
Governor Wichai said Phuket also needed a convention centre large enough to cater for international summits.
“We lost the chance to host the ASEAN Summit because our convention hall was too small,” he said.
He is also keen to clamp down on garbage problems across the island.
“Plastic bags are everywhere, because people lack the common sense to dispose of them properly,” he said.
“The people who produce plastic bags and other plastic materials, make a profit out of them, but when it becomes garbage, the government has to handle the problem.
“Consciousness doesn’t work with people these days, so we might need more serious policies to deter rubbish dumping,” he said.
“The profit falls into the private sectors, but the burden falls to the government.
“But we can’t blame only the businesses which make and supply the plastic bags.
“Every family has to take responsibility for their own garbage.”
Governor Wichai is also concerned about development on Phuket.
“Construction grows rapidly every year, and the growth of the real estate industry means more strain on our environment,” he said.
He said infrastructure such as water supplies and traffic problems would not be able to cope with the increased strain.
“Again the strain on resources falls to the government,” he said.
“We will have to look at this in the future to find the best solutions.
“The private sector has to be creative in their business strategies and work towards benefitting society as well as making a profit,” he said.
Governor Wichai said foreign entrepreneurs had to give something back to Phuket.
“Many entrepreneurs are foreigners who have made Phuket their home and they make large profits here without regard for the future of Thailand,” he said.
“Encouraging tourism also means encouraging people to destroy our natural environment.
“We support tourism but we must keep our natural environment a priority as well,” he said.
“Our locals, and the environment must not be exploited by tourism or private entrepreneurs.
“Tourists come to Phuket to see our natural beauty, so let’s give them what they came for, as well as preserve our lands.”
Governor Wichai has been described a ‘high grade diamond’ by the people of Sing Buri province where he last worked, but he says he never thinks about himself as a diamond.
“I might be the diamond of Phuket, or I might be the clay of Phuket,” he said.
“We’ll have to wait and see.
“But if I can solve the traffic problems my work will have been accomplished,” he said.
“Success and the value of a man is measured by the work he does, not by any title given to him,” he said.
Governor Wichai was recognized last year as one of the 12 best governors of the year, and was awarded the Golden Junk trophy.
Governor Wichai is now 59, and the retirement age for governors in Thailand is 60, which means he has only one year to get the job done.