Dec 17, 2002
The operator of Sun City, the famous holiday resort in South Africa, is among the many foreign investors interested in Koh Chang and surrounding islands which the government aims to develop into a high-end tourist destination, said the governor of Trat province. Governor Somboon Ngamlak said the Muang Thong Thani complex, which is majority-owned by the Kanjanapas family and owns Kradad Island near Koh Chang, has contacted Sun City about the possibility of investing in Koh Chang.
“They are interested in investing here. However, there are many issues to negotiate with the government such as tax, the electricity and water systems, and other facilities,” Somboon said. In addition, “two or three” US investors are exploring the possibility of investing in the CP Group‘s White Sand Island, also near Koh Chang, he said.
Koh Chang – Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket – is surrounded by 50 islands. Koh Chang is mainly controlled by the Forestry Department, but it is uncertain who owns many of the other islands nearby, said the governor. He said the government was expected to amend a new law concerning development of Koh Chang.
“The law is expected to be amended within two months,” he said.
According to the law, the island is to be managed by an executive board, similar to those that manage state enterprises such as Thai Airways International.
“It will be an independent organisation … to manage the islands,” he said. In 2001, about 300,000 tourists visited Koh Chang. The number is expected to rise to 500,000 this year.
While the majority of these visitors are budget travellers or backpackers, the government wants to develop the island into a world-class destination catering to “high-yield” tourists, the governor said.
Private airline Bangkok Airways will soon open the first airport in Trat province and will operate direct flights from Bangkok.
Wherever there is a ‘may’ there is also a ‘may not’. Years ago there were stories of a casino being proposed on Koh Kradad, which is probably where Sun City would have come in, had the idea to develop and theme Koh Chang and surrounding islands ever really gone ahead.