PHUKET: Prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat has vowed his government will support Phuket in hosting the Specialised Expo 2028.
Mr Pita, leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP), which won the most seats in the May 14 election, visited the resort island to thank MFP supporters.
The party's spokesman Rangsiman Rome and three Phuket MPs-elect also joined Mr Pita, who gave a speech to at least 1,000 supporters at a football field in front of the Krathu District Office.
A key component of his speech was on the island's candidature for the Specialised Expo 2028, which will be held from March 21 to June 20, 2028.
"Phuket is the pearl of the Andaman Sea and also a destination that I love. We want to thank Phuket people for the trust you gave to our party and our candidates," Mr Pita said.
"From now on, Phuket will not be the same. I will promote Phuket to be the pearl of the world," he said.
"We have about 10 days before judgment day on June 21 when we know which city will be selected as the host."
Phuket is competing with the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Spain's Barcelona, and Minnesota in the United States to host the expo.
The government has set aside a 4.18-billion-baht budget to host the event, which will be organised by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), the Public Health Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and related sectors.
The theme proposed by Thailand for the expo is "Future of Life: Living in Harmony, Sharing Prosperity".
The authorities have pitched the island to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) panel twice.
"If Phuket is selected, it will mark the first time the country has hosted an event like the Specialised Expo. I am sure that locals will profit at least tenfold from the 4.18 billion baht that the government will invest for this expo," said Mr Pita.
"We want you to say that your province is ready for those voters in 120 countries who are going to vote for us in Paris," he said.
Prayut: Also backs hosting event
"We want you to say to them that Phuket is strong and Phuket is safe for people around the world."
He said the island welcomed eight million tourists last year and 400,000 so far this year.
As prime minister, Mr Pita said, his job would be to bring back another fourfold of visitors to the island.
What he plans to do, he said, is not just have more facilities for the expo but also improve the development of every section of the island, including the economy, health and wellness and environment.
Mr Pita also promised to solve two of the island's long-term problems -- illegal narcotics and corruption.
"We will not do this just in case the island is selected to host the Specialised Expo 2028. We will do it to improve the quality of life of people," he said.
He also expressed his gratitude to every eligible voter in Phuket for the MFP's overwhelming victory, which he said the party won by getting twice as many votes as the now-dissolved Future Forward Party got from the island in the 2019 election.
"Your voice means a lot to us and the three MPs-elect. We will never let our voters be disappointed," he said.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged people to support Phuket in hosting the international event, said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.
"Many parties have worked hard during the past year for the event preparation," Ms Traisuree said.
"Thai people who want to express their support can visit the website https://support.expo2028thailand.com and click vote to show the power of our country," she said.
Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, president of the TCEB, also said a vote from Thai citizens is also needed for the final lap of the competition to see who hosts the event.
Mr Chiruit said the expo would be a core part of Thailand's plan to promote its health, wellness and medical tourism in Southeast Asia. The event will generate up to 50 billion baht in economic value and attract about 5 million visitors, he added.
The expo is expected to create 113,439 jobs in Phuket and will also help promote tourism in nearby provinces, he said.
Phuket has prepared a 141-rai site in Thalang district to host the Specialised Expo 2028.