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Best not to forget that parks are for the people, not for property

Phuket Property: Time to Learn the Difference Between Right and Wrong

Saturday, October 6, 2012
News Analysis

PHUKET: A lot of energy and effort goes into branding Phuket. Here's Phuketwan's solution: Brand Phuket as an honest place for investment, particularly in land, and a safe place for visitors and residents.

Suddenly there's a predictable rush of anguish among the boosters of the Phuket property industry because, at long last, overdue action is being taken to prevent the appropriation of public parkland and punish the miscreants.

To argue that the pursuit of justice is wrong because it also damages investment in tourism and property on Phuket is, as arguments go, about as lame as an argument gets.

While you're at it, you might as well suggest that war criminals should go free if they haven't been caught and prosecuted within X number of years.

For decades, as everyone on Phuket knows, corrupt people on Phuket have done just about anything for money, especially when it comes to property.

In so doing, it's the people who have followed the laws of the land who have been the real victims.

We won't know whether the brands and the people currently involved in investigations of prime real estate bordering Phuket's Sirinath National Park are also victims until the process is complete.

It's obvious, though, that skulduggery has taken place around the national park down the decades since the 1950s.

The investigators now aim to trace who knew, and when, and how the process of deceit was turned to profit for the criminals.

The upholders of the laws of Thailand should have done years ago what one brave man has now begun to do. We hope the process that he has begun is completed, without further ado.

The property industry boosters should also hope justice comes fast, too - because if it does not come, the stench of corruption will keep potential Phuket investors at bay for decades.

It's obvious that Thailand and Thailand's citizens have been robbed blind of their parkland heritage.

We can only suggest that anyone who bought land bordering the national park on Phuket on the basis of a single title document should have gone back to look at previous land transfers in just the same way that investigators are now doing.

Anything less would not have been due diligence, knowing that Phuket is a corrupt place and that the area around the national park is the most obvious target for corrupt people.

Perhaps it's time to remind Phuket's property industry boosters that for years, honest people have been trying to persuade the law enforcers to sort right from wrong.

In 2003, one honest man, Pongtorn Hiranyaburana, was shot dead by an assassin as he drove home from Phuket to Surat Thani.

Khun Pungtorn was the Deputy Chief of the Phuket Provincial Land Titles Office. He had been investigating the issuing of illegal land titles, and he was clearly onto something.

His murderers were never found.

Phuketwan believes that the (now retired) Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Damrong ''The Demolisher'' Pidech, has acted with great bravery in raising the issue of parkland theft and land titles corruption.

We hope that the investigation is brought to a conclusion as fast as possible. We hope that justice is done.

And we hope that then, more people on Phuket and throughout Thailand, particularly in the property industry, will be able to clearly distinguish right from wrong.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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It seems to some people if you are anti-corruption and against the abuse of power by officials, you are then somehow anti-business. Phuket's 'brand' relates to it's beaches. Many are not worth visiting any more because they have been sold out to private enterprise via 'leases.' These businesses have to pay so much in 'lease' money the prices of their goods and services have increased exponentially compared to other places in Thailand. Add in a crumbling and inadequate infrastructure and you end up with serious problems. In the end, everyone loses.

Posted by logbags on October 6, 2012 10:59

Editor Comment:

Phuket's beaches are as much 'public parkland' as the defined wooded and marine areas. The shame of it is that so many ''business'' people on Phuket are content to go with the flow, even though they know the train inevitably wrecks the terminal at the end of the reel. Talking ''green'' these days often remains all about the color of the money.

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Dear Editor, I applaud all the righteous actions taken to protect Phuket's natural resources. I have just moved to Bangtao area from Australia and the local beaches at Surin seem to have restaurants and bars that occupy large tracts of the beach. What is the law on this and your view please?

Posted by Gail on October 6, 2012 14:22

Editor Comment:

We've advocated establishment of a Phuket Beach Authority to bring consistency to maintenance and protection of all Phuket beaches. Money from beach activities should go towards saving the beaches, not into the pockets of local mismanagers. The conflict will remain the desire of many tourists to enjoy the beaches by night, and there's no reason why that desire shouldn't be met - as well as the need for nature to thrive - provided the money goes into beach maintenance and protection. The key is to have one set of rules for all beaches.

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Dear Editor, Are you saying its ok for these beach front commercial enterprises to occupy large tracts of public designated beach for their own commercial gain provided that a dreamed of Phuket Beach Authority says ok? Are you not concerned that this Beach Authority may not be subject to exactly the vagrancies endured elsewhere. Is it ok if certain brands cover public beach with decking and sun loungers ? Surely if transparency is what is sought then all the commercial enterprises benefitting from use of public beach land should agree to have their contributions published for public scrutiny as to ensure the benefits to the community are clearly demonstrated not just some PR ? Would you champion such as cause as you seem to have done for the other brave people seeking to protect Phuket from the evil clutches of capitalists? As our local media champion would you champion such as cause to show transparency on the so called contributions of these commercial enterprises?

Posted by Gail on October 6, 2012 15:47

Editor Comment:

You do it your way. Capitalism is not the problem. Greed is the problem. i'd prefer to have a new authority in charge of all the beaches for the sake of clarity and consistency. If the priority was clearly preservation and maintenance of the beaches, a new authority would have advantages that are lost on the present managements. With a one-management team, you could have beaches where umbrellas and loungers were standard and other beaches where they were not.

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So I buy 2 Rai of land of Khun Dang, Knun Dang bought it from Khun Lek, when Lek bought it it had no title, Lek paid under the table to the head of the land dept and changed the title to Chanote, when I bought from Dang the papers were all good, now there not upon investigation, yet all the land title papers have Government land dept stamps however, who protects me now?

Posted by coxo on October 6, 2012 16:34

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You mention that you have advocated the establishment of a Phuket Beach Authority, please can you tell us who did you make this representation to and how can we ordinary residents back your suggestions? How does this authority get appointed and who is it made up from?
Surely one of the biggest issues would be to ensure that those with commercial interests on beaches demonstrate how they are benefitting the local community aside from jobs. Perhaps an audited published statement of how much of the profit they make are they contributing to the protection of the public resources they are using. That way they could also be recognized for their contribution and you could report on some positive responsible individuals and stimulate a positive trend. Certainly on our local beach I haven't noticed any visible signs of contribution from any of the commercial operators, perhaps with some encouragement from you our local media this could be facilitated.

Posted by Surin local on October 6, 2012 18:25

Editor Comment:

We suggested the idea to our readers. We are advocates, not activists.

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Dear Editor
Its disappointing, your articles that I have read to date since I have been here are generally well researched. If not a little partisan. But this time you pontificate about fair play when you too take "the green of money" from your sponsors who build decks and structures upon the beaches,but that is ok because some how they are different from the rest ? This is not a comment about them its an observation about the way you choose to observe things and report them. If there is a shred of integrity left with you, perhaps you will choose to post this comment, for as you say the rest to judge as you appear to judge others. Everybody respects genuine unbiased reporting and you are correct to support those trying to do the right thing. People in Glass houses perhaps ? If you judge others expect to be judged!

Posted by Gail on October 6, 2012 20:59

Editor Comment:

I can tell the difference between a Phuket beach and a national park, Gail. Can you? Our reporting on issues is unbiased but we do have opinions formed by reporting those issues, That's why the pieces where we say what we think are labelled 'News Analysis.' We don't pontificate, nor are we partisan. If we didn't have sponsors, you might have to pay, Gail. It's no surprise that your focus is us, not the issue.

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Dear Editor,
I must credit you with some respect for posting my last post, it shows value of this forum. However I have to say my comments are partially based on your comment below" Phuket's beaches are as much "public Parkland" as wooded and marine areas" . You yourself brought this into the discussion. You seem to level accusations about "greedy" property developers on the one hand but draw a distinction about other parties equally exploiting our natural resources for commercial gain.Your words, no difference between parkland and beaches. Please explain the difference between one group of people exploiting our natural resources in park land and those who do this on the beaches. Surely exploitation is exploitation ? Or do you cherry pick those you choose to report on transgressions ?

Posted by Gail on October 7, 2012 07:32

Editor Comment:

'Phuket's beaches are indeed as much "public Parkland" as wooded and marine areas, Gail, but they are different national assets governed by different bodies operating under different laws. However, the beaches definitely need a body just like the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to protect and maintain them. Hence our suggestion. We intend to continue to report accusations of transgressions without fear or favor. But as I said, we are advocates, not activists. We've never ''levelled accusations about 'greedy' property developers.'' There is no evidence for that.

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I bought an ocean front villa in Phuket 22 years ago, still have it. The house had a proper land title and blue book. I am the second owner after the Thai developer. I used a lawyer for the transfer of land. The land title is signed by the proper land officials at Phuket land office so I had no reason to suspect any wrongdoing two decades ago but maybe the Thai developer bribed the official 30 years ago when the house was built to have this land approved for construction or the land title upgraded for building villas. The government can not come now and tell me that their own officials did wrong 30 years ago and demand the land back. There has to be a time limit on these issues.

Posted by X-years ago on October 7, 2012 08:55

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Dear Ed,
I agree with your comments that there needs to be tighter and more responsible management of The Phuket Brand that includes management of our beaches. Its a resource issue but wouldn't it make sense for Phuket to manage its own resources. We seem to endure National bodies for everything when a structure allowing Phuket's self governance would surely be better, providing as a province have appropriate adequate funding.

On another note yes its a good thing that Khun Damrong apparently instigated this review process, but equally isn't it a shame he left it to the final months of his tenure and is unable to see things through. Perhaps those who deserve the real credit are those who are left to continue his work.

Thanks Phuketwan for providing the latest news I always read your coverage when traveling to catch up on whats happening in Phuket.

Posted by Surin local on October 7, 2012 09:13

Editor Comment:

Phuket has proved more than once that it can't manage it's own resources. The national government recognises the need to protect Phuket's natural assets. Most local governments only see the money. It's only since the national government offered support on taxis, etc, that there has been signs of progress. The same kind of approach is essential on the beaches.

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Twenty years ago at Surin Beach there were a few restaurants on the beach side of the road. In the late 90's the local council built concrete buildings for these people and ordered everyone to move off the beach front to the other side of the road. This worked for a while until people started to put chairs back on the other side of the road. Most people didn't mind this but the real problems started when people with deeper pockets moved in and wanted to make use of the sand in front of their places. To do this they had to pay certain people for the permission to do this.

The problem is these officials are asking for so much money I'm surprised nobody has complained publicly about it.

Now it has gotten way out of control with beach loungers all the way down to the water's edge and beach clubs holding private weddings right on the beach. One of the larger beach clubs I'm told is going to have to pay 7 million baht this year just for being able to do this.

The money goes straight into the pockets of local officials. A lot of locals are very resentful as all it does is give these officials a large war chest to buy votes at election time. Nothing is spent on local infrastructure or community projects at all.

I'm not against people doing business at the beach at all but what has happened at Surin is too much. Every square inch of the place has an 'owner' now. Even the car park has people lording over it.

Posted by logbags on October 7, 2012 10:27

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Dear Editor,
You obviously didn't catch my drift, whilst I understand your point about different area's being covered by different laws and jurisdiction, my point was more about your apparent distinction between the evils of exploitation in the national park and on the beaches. Do you not accept the point that both are wrong and should be equally vilified ? Surely Property is property whether leased rented purchased or sold ?

Posted by gail on October 7, 2012 10:35

Editor Comment:

What we're trying to tell you politely is that your drift isn't worth catching. The difference between the two kinds of encroachments, as we have been trying to explain to you, is that the laws governing national parkland appropriation are clear. The laws governing the beaches are interpreted in many different ways by different local authorities - which is why a single Phuket Beach Authority is needed. Our aim is to save both the beaches and the parkland. Your aim, whatever it might be, seems to be lost in your drift.
And I don't have time to continue this conversation.

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Dear Editor,
Firstly for the record I am not related to the author of this analysis. My friends who live on the island say that Phuketwan is the best source of local information and news.
I live in a small town in the UK and would just like to say that its all about the enforcement of these regulations. Whatever the authority is responsible for enforcing the law they must have the power to deal with the transgressors when they catch them in the act. Her in the Uk its the local council that has that power. Surely its too difficult to control through a national bureaucratic set up?

Posted by Alana Morison on October 7, 2012 10:59

Editor Comment:

As with the teams having to be brought in from outside Phuket to investigate the alleged national park encroachment, a Phuket Beach Authority would need to have no connections with Phuket's local authorities or businesses. Phuket has to break its links with corruption and its acceptance of corruption.
Are you sure we're not related?

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Well put Logbags ! Surin is meant to be one of the jewels in Phuket's Crown with world famous destination resorts situated in the local. Towards the north end of the beach its being operated like a private beach.Not sure how you arrived at the 7 Million Baht fee figure but surely some of this money needs to be accounted for and spent for the community. There must be greater transparency with theses fees if they are legitimate? But its not just the beach they are using the King's green park as a car park for larger events. It was a mud patch after the last big event. As someone else commented this is exploitation of public resources for private commercial gain. Unfortunately its not just Surin look south to Kamala same story. This behavior seems to be catching hold everywhere !

Posted by Surin local on October 7, 2012 11:16

Editor Comment:

Surin local, you need to travel around to other beaches on the island. Or perhaps even walk to the south end of Surin beach - if you can.

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We have a system in the UK where the local authority is responsible but there is also a national watchdog.We also have a press here who have the power to name and shame. (they recently reported on shame of garbage from impromptu bar bq's on Brighton Beach.
I know your say you are advocates but you must also realize you wield the power to bring people together to fight for what is right. We are the Morisons from Devon:) Didn't know you are also the Editor.

Posted by alana Morison on October 7, 2012 11:33

Editor Comment:

Naming and shaming is a pointless exercise here until there is a system and people understand what's required. Comparisons with beaches in other countries, where there are laws and they are enforced, is not especially relevant. There is no ''system'' on Phuket.

Morisons from Devon? What happened to Scotland?

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Dear Editor.
Unfortunately I do visit the other beaches and indeed the south side of Surin beach which now regrettably resembles a bomb site. I comment on Surin because it directly effects me but unfortunately the same maxim can be applied to Kamala, Bangtao, Naithor, Nai Harn. Its a plague that seems to catching on our coastline. Its great that you are generating discussion on these issues. Happy to contribute and send you photos of the transgressions.

Posted by surin local on October 7, 2012 11:43

Editor Comment:

There are no ''transgressions'' if the activities are endorsed by the local councils. And more commercial activities will be endorsed by the local councils at all Phuket beaches, day and night, until there is a single Phuket Beach Authority motivated not by greed, but by the need to maintain and protect the beaches. Local efforts, like beach and reef cleanups, tinker with the consequences and fail to deal directly with the causes.

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Dear Editor/namesake, it seems that there must be a financial benefit to catch on. It seems to me as a visitor maybe a pilot program on one beach that is well managed could help people understand the benefits and it could work.
Do you think this approach could catch on?
I think we do have scottish roots but perhaps you may have heard of Alana Morrison( 2 r's) Miss Aberdeen ?

Posted by Alana Morison on October 7, 2012 12:47

Editor Comment:

For a pilot project you'd need a willing council, and that won't happen, Alana, without intervention. There is too much money to be made. Greed has never been influenced by pilot projects. In any case, within two years, it will be too late.
You say a Morrison won a beauty contest?

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Editor. I agree with you and your name sake the other Morison. You need to catch all the regulations and jurisdiction in the same place and enforce these accepted rules and regulations with a neutral force, but where can we find such neutrality in Thailand, sooner or later corruption seems to permeate? Transparency and a set of obligations for these lease holders should be published and the duties audited. If the license /lease is based on real commercial transparent terms its may stand a better chance.

Posted by surin local on October 7, 2012 13:02

Editor Comment:

Good luck with that. The beaches will still be destroyed, but at least you will know who did it, and why.

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Logbags is correct. Surin local how is your football stadium coming along? Then try to find parking at any time, the eM's have that under their belts too now.The only way to stop this rot is to get completely different officials in from other areas north of Bangkok who are more interested in the area than their own nests. (moderated)

Posted by Robin on October 7, 2012 13:07

Editor Comment:

The police don't investigate encroachment on the beaches or in parklands until the appropriate authority informs them that laws have been breached.

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Catch a stitch in time and save nine or something like that ! Its a shame there doesn't seem to be the will to catch things out in time. Perhaps the Rob Roy of media in Phuket can make a stand for the voiceless?

Yes a Morrison did win beauty contest In Scotland but she has 2 r's and a lot more besides:) The Devon version is a lot more agricultural:)

Posted by Alana Morison on October 7, 2012 13:15

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Dear Editor,
With some of these posts, do you not get the feeling of being led up the garden path by the voiceless?

Posted by Pete on October 7, 2012 16:04

Editor Comment:

Editors don't have feelings, Pete, or garden paths.

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Sorry Ed, I wasn't aware you were numb and lived in a flat.
I'll bear it in mind in future.

Posted by Pete on October 7, 2012 17:09

Editor Comment:

Actually it's a ground floor penthouse.

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Sorry Robin I didn't catch what you meant re football stadium. Are you sure its not an ice rink ?Are you offering sympathy with those of us that think at a football stadium ( or indeed ice rink)is not a priority, and perhaps amenities such as public toilets and parking are more of a priority?
Surely the problem still remains even if officials are drafted in from somewhere else, are you seriously suggesting that there is no corruption north of Bangkok or perhaps that these new officials will always be above suspicion and they wont adapt to new surroundings. Or do you have a game plan? Like the pun about feathering nests from Robin ( was it intentional?)
By the way Robin we don't have much parking in Surin but we do now have our own wild pig,maybe we also have truffles will try to keep you informed.

Posted by surin local on October 7, 2012 19:24

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Sorry Pete,with a Morison in charge I don't think the people of Phuket are voiceless anymore. Think thats 2-1 to clan Morison well done Alan.

Posted by alana Morison on October 7, 2012 19:33

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News Flash! Robin apparently the structure in Surin is neither an ice rink,training platform for aircraft carrier nor a football stadium,its actually a car park but they have forgotten to build a ramp. Additionally Just to clarify I didn't wish to infer in anyway that Robin was feathering his/her nest or that any one else was for that matter.

Posted by surin local on October 7, 2012 20:02

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@ surin local. I would like to call your bluff about the new area in Surin beach. How long have you actually stayed /lived there?
Here is the link :-
http://phuketwan.com/property/phuket-beach-gains-quality-football-pitch-public-park-16201/

Posted by Robin on October 7, 2012 22:14

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Surin local, you obviously have not been reading PW long, nor lived in Surin Beach all that long either? Maybe you need the News Flash kiddo. Here it is courtesy of Phuket Wan: . . .
Phuket Beach Gains Quality Football Pitch, Public Park

By Prasit Tarnsirisin
Friday, June 22, 2012
PHUKET: A new 19 million baht football pitch facility is being built near Phuket's Surin beach that will give the island a taste for higher quality football.
Back to your cot now.

Posted by DunBl on October 7, 2012 22:23

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Dearest DunBi, I was being ironic, of course its a football stadium, hence my references to ice rink and aircraft carriers! Surin needs this football stadium like a fish needs a bicycle (although these with the amount of garbage in the sea maybe fish do require bicycles) I apologise for my levity, but with some of the planning decisions going on the island that sometimes feels like that's all we have left. We do actually have some parking space above the south side of the beach but visitors have to pass through a bomb site of derelict sea shacks to access the beach. Question is where is the parking planned for this invaluable new stadium and when are they going to restore The Kings Pavillion ?

Posted by Surin local on October 8, 2012 08:14

Editor Comment:

Surin local, editors do not have senses of humor. Irony and sarcasm often fail in print, without a declaration of intent.

Are you able to tell us how many football fields and parks the schoolchildren have to play on in and around the Surin region? I just thought I should ask that question. You may think beach parking is a priority. On the other hand, the elected local administrators probably feel they have to serve the needs of the whole community.

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Robin and Dumbi, you have not mentioned the other erection to be proud of, the 15 meter street light post at the junction of the beach road. Was that installed to illuminate the spagetti like wiring suspended along the beach road, all of this when the land fronting our beautiful beach is bordered by derelict buildings.

Sadly Surin appears to be a microcosm of planning and public spending in Phuket. By the way I am sitting on a beach at the southern end of the island as I write this.

Posted by Surin Local on October 8, 2012 08:37

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Dear Editor,Sincere apologies I mistook your exchange with Pete in earlier postings as having a trace of humor.
In terms of parks, there is the large green space next to the kings Pavilion and as of yesterday there was what appeared to be a fully equipped children's play ground. I absolutely agree the wider community must be served, but why place an ugly concrete structure next to a pristine ( or once pristine site) when a football stadium does not require to be in such a location. Surely some non sea view swamp land in Bangtao could have been reclaimed and perhaps would have had adequate space for the potential additional parking required? Surely preserving natural green space is an important legacy to the community?

Posted by Surin local on October 8, 2012 08:50

Editor Comment:

Having walked across the large green space at the weekend, I can say the parkland is in no fit state for children to play on at present. Nor will it ever be suitable for inter-school football. You seem concerned about the state of everything around the beaches, including the buildings. Perhaps they could be knocked down to make way for your car park? Surin, along with all the other beaches, needs a single Phuket Beach Authority in control to make sure that commercial users pay for the protection and maintenance of all beaches. This ''local'' debate at Surin needs to be put in the context of the whole island's needs, not yours.

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Dear Editor you are right of course, a voice of reason, if not the voice of reason. Enough about Surin, how about the pink hotel at the end of Karon beach, I think it was built by a non Phuket entity with national reach ? Sure they wouldn't have an influence on future governing beach body's selected from north of Bangkok. There lies the issue. You were right in one of your earlier postings soon it will be too late!

Posted by Surin local on October 8, 2012 09:13

Editor Comment:

I guess there are hotlines for all kinds of complaints these days, although to make an allegation without evidence could be at the accuser's risk. You seem to think everything is governed by self-interest.

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surin local, answer the question I posed please, how long have you stayed or lived in Surin beach area? Then we can see if any of your posts are worthy of thinking about?

Posted by Robin on October 8, 2012 10:46

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Dear Robin,
Over 5 years but under 10. Why are you going to claim some sort of superiority due to your tenure?:)perhaps we can carve a statue of you, or do you have a more sinister agenda? :) one wild boar in Surin is enough I don't intend to be
the other bore of Surin.

Posted by Surin Local on October 8, 2012 11:17

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Ps For the avoidance of doubt, the other swine I was referring to is actually the resident pig on the Surin green and nothing inferred or implied towards Robin in anyway:) Obvioulsly I have not observered the hallowed Surin Initiation ceremony so have not achieved a certified local status from either Robin or the "we", so am forced to retire my post name in favor of "Robin too" in the vain hope I might get mistaken for the real thing:) adieu Surin local:)

Posted by Surin local on October 8, 2012 16:15

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Even the Americans are doing this now, this just in the headlines from CBS News, " Luxury mansions pop up in US parks ".
Wonder who is learning from who?

Posted by Robin on October 15, 2012 14:29

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I have to chime in, some of you expats may disagree but Thailand is considered a 3rd world country, the local people are for the most part poor, they do what they can to feed their families and survive, the only way to preserve the national parks, beaches etc. is to provide them with an alternate form of making an income, put it this way if you were struggling to feed your family, would you give a rats about the environment, you need to look at it from their side and not through your western eyes....

Posted by Paul on October 19, 2012 06:09

Editor Comment:

I have to chime in too Paul, if only to say that there's no confirmed evidence of parkland theft. As in the West, there is the same divide between the haves and have-nots. The motivation is more likely to be greed than poverty.


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