PHUKET: The government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has given the green light to the Ao Phuket development plan, a 100-billion-baht megaproject on 3,000 rai of reclaimed land that would include a convention center, marina and other facilities.

The latest movement in the Ao Phuket plan, first conceived over two decades ago, follows from PM Samak’s assigning responsibility for the project to the the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA), a public organization under the direction of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports established in 2005 under the first Thaksin government.

Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit met with DASTA’s Ao Phuket working committee at the Phuket Merlin Hotel on May 2.

The Ao Phuket committee, accompanied by DASTA chairman Gen Soonthorn Khumkomkul, earlier that morning traveled to the waterfront to view the intended project site, which stretches across Phuket Bay all the way from Saphan Hin to Rassada Harbor.

Also attending the meeting were representatives from Phuket City Municipality, the Tourism Authority of Thailand South Region 4 Office in Phuket, the Phuket Tourist Association, Muang District Office, Rassada and Wichit municipalities and other agencies.

PM Samak in March 2008 authorized the DASTA to take responsibility for areas it deems as appropriate for “sustainable” tourism development.

Rajathin Syamananda, who heads DASTA’s Ao Phuket project committee, is well acquainted with the project as a former director-general of the Interior Ministry’s Town and Country Planning Department.

The MICE facilities would comprise: “Phuket Arena”, a 40,000-square-meter convention center with the capacity to host events for up to 15,000 people; two exhibition areas of 60,000 and 30,000 sqm each; a 40,000-sqm business center with space for 100 businesses to rent; a 1,000-room hotel complex; and a 60,000 sqm shopping center featuring shopping malls, souvenir shops, restaurants, cinemas and other facilities.

The circular, 690-rai marina development to the south would include berthing facilities for superyachts, hundreds of slips for smaller vessels, a retail and commercial center, repair and maintenance facilities, and apartment or condominium blocks.

On the economic front, K. Rajathin said the original cost estimate of 63.5 billion baht when the plans were drawn up might no longer be practical.

The total price tag would probably hit 100 billion baht

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