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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dying Sungai Golok(kolok) wooing Malaysian tourists again


Sungai Golok: The problems in southern Thailand has taken a toll on this border town which has now become a ghost town awaiting an even painful end.

Once known for its vibrant nightlife, the sporadic bombings in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala have made Sungai Kolok the last place Malaysians would want to visit.

However, district police chief Col Tangusat Wangsupa insisted that the town is safe for tourists.

"If you feel unsafe, I can arrange for one of my men to accompany you around the town any time of the day," he said during a goodwill visit by Malaysian journalists and Kelantan tourism representatives.

"I have my men at every corner of the street on a 24-hour basis.

"It is perfectly safe," he said, adding that visitors should not be intimidated by their presence.

Tangusat added that local tourism had almost come to a standstill because of the unrest.

The trip was organised by the Kelantan Tourism Action Council, led by its chairman Datuk Abdul Aziz Derashid.

It aimed at boosting both the Kelantan and Thai tourism sectors.

Sungai Golok was once popular with Malaysians who made up almost 9070 of the visitors.

A mere 45-minute drive from Kota Baru, this cowboy town was also a shopping haven which drew more Malaysians on weekends.

For shoe seller Siti Ratcheni Soma, 28, business has been so bad that she is thinking of doing something else.

"I see fewer and fewer people coming over here.

"The presence of the police and soldiers does not help at all." she added.

Noraini Hassan, a local resident, shared the sentiment. She hoped that Sungai Golok would return to its glory days of being the second Haadyai.

"Nowadays, you only see locals here. They are not big spenders like Malaysians," she said.

"If this goes on, I believe that this town will die before the year ends and all of us will suffer."

Narathiwat deputy governor Nipon Narapitakul said government agencies were making efforts to pull in the tourists to the provinces through a promotional blitz.

"We will woo our friends in Kelantan to come here.

"I assure them that it is safe to come here as the violence has gone down."

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