Satun residents stage more port protests

Satun residents stage more port protests

Satun residents opposed to the Pak Bara deep sea-port megaproject say the province should remain a tourist destination.

They said turning the province into an industrial zone would threaten the delicate ecological system that attracts travellers from around the world.

“Satun can’t be anything else but a tourism province,” said Somboon Khamhang, a Satun resident and a leader of the Satun Development Watchdog Group.

“Satun residents must figure out how to properly handle tourism.

“[The province] won’t be another Phuket, Khao Lak in Phangnga or Ao Nang in Krabi, but it has enormous potential.”

He was speaking at a seminar, held as a part of “Pak Bara Paradiso” exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre yesterday in the wake of the government’s announcement to press ahead with the Pak Bara deep sea-port in Petra Marine National Park of Satun’s La-ngu district.

Satun’s three national parks — Thale Ban, Petra and Tarutao — are abundant marine zones that offer a steady flow of tourism income to residents.

A Satun Provincial Office spokesman said the province’s tourism income rose from two to 6.3 billion baht in 2010 and 2013 while tourist arrivals increased from 690,000 to 1.13 million.

Kraiwut Chusakul, a boat operator, complained that the local way of life was not considered when planning for development, adding that building a deep-sea port in Petra marine park will affect the other national parks.

The area included treasures such as coral reefs, protected dugongs, Paphiopedilum orchids and Pak Bara soldier crabs — all abundant around the site where the port will be built.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed his intention to go ahead with the 4,734-rai Pak Bara project in his Returning Happiness to the Thai People TV show yesterday and promised the government would offer compensation. The project first emerged in 2007 after the Surayud Chulanont cabinet tried to turn Thailand into an international logistics hub.

The environmental impact assessment report for the first phase of the project, covering 292 rai of sea to be filled in, was conducted in 2009.

“I can’t see how the government will compensate for it,” said Thammarat Nutadhira who studies local ecology and geology.

“Satun has an identity that is irreplaceable.”

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