Phuket: The government is pressing ahead with transport infrastructure development projects in this southern island province in a bid to boost tourism along the Andaman coast.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin visited Phuket on Friday to inspect transport infrastructure projects aimed at promoting tourism in provinces along the Andaman coast, including Phuket and Phangnga.
Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit and Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol accompanied the prime minister.
Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said that Mr Srettha was briefed on the projects by officials from relevant agencies upon arrival at Phuket airport.
Among the projects are the construction of a second Phuket airport with a 5.8 billion baht price tag, the upgrade of Krabi airport at a cost of 2.7 billion baht and the 80-billion-baht construction of an international airport in Phangnga's Takua Thung district.
Other projects include the construction of the 3.98-kilometre Kathu-Patong expressway in Phuket and the construction of the 30.26-kilometre Muang Mai-Koh Kaew-Kathu expressway.
The Department of Highways plans to expand the 4.55-kilometre Highway No.4207 to four lanes and construct an interchange at kilometre marker post No.34+680.
After the briefing, Mr Srettha said the government is ready to work with all stakeholders to improve the tourism sector, which he said is crucial to revitalising the economy.
He expressed confidence in the potential of Phuket, which serves as a model for economic stimulus as the island province can connect visitors to Krabi and Phangnga, forming the Andaman coast tourism cluster.
Each province in the cluster has its unique characteristics which can respond to the needs of various groups of visitors, the spokesman quoted Mr Srettha as saying.
Even though some development projects are already underway in Phuket, the government will try to ensure during its four-year term that development in the province continues without interruption, Mr Chai quoted the PM as saying.
"The prime minister also instructed relevant agencies to ensure visitors to Phuket are safe and happy from the moment they set foot on the island until they leave," the spokesman said.
Mr Srettha later visited the construction site for the Kathu-Patong expressway in Phuket's Kathu district, where he also met with locals to hear their opinions on traffic issues in relation to tourism.
The prime minister said the government is set to push for infrastructure development projects in the island province to welcome more tourists, according to the spokesman.
"The government is ready to support the projects. The projects will be sped up to welcome tourists," the spokesman quoted the PM as saying.
Mr Srettha emphasised that the budget for the projects must be spent prudently for the benefit of people and that construction projects must consider the impacts on the environment and residents' livelihoods.
Mr Srettha also went to Phangnga, where he was briefed on the project to construct the international airport, which covers about 7,400 rai in the province's Takua Thung district.
The prime minister stressed that the project must not cause any adverse impacts on local residents, and efforts must be made to ensure they receive fair compensation for any land expropriated.
The prime minister also said it is important to build transport systems to connect with the planned airport and build utility infrastructure to prepare for urban expansion around the airport in the future, Mr Chai said.
Mr Suriya previously said the Transport Ministry is preparing to propose seven infrastructure projects worth 148 billion baht to improve land and air transport facilities on Phuket.
The seven projects include multiple highways across Phuket, highway extensions, overpasses and the second Phuket airport.