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Phuket's future at risk as tourists play ''find the sand'' at beaches

Death of Phuket Tourism Predicted as Phuket Beaches Become 'Like Slums'

Friday, March 2, 2012
PHUKET: Some once-natural Phuket beaches have been described as ''looking like slums'' by a powerful committee that aims to correct the major problems confronting Phuket's future as an appealing tourist destination.

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism were especially shocked by what they saw at Kamala and Bang Tao beaches, where commercial interests ranging from five-star resorts to vendors selling sunglasses are allowed to operate on the public sands.

''Who takes responsibility for this?'' the committee chair, Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, asked a summit on tourism at Provincial Hall in Phuket City this week.

The meeting fell quiet. ''We need to know. Somebody must be responsible, otherwise there is no hope for Phuket. Within 10 years, it will be over. These beaches are like slums.

''There was a time when families came to Phuket because they knew that Pattaya was not the right kind of destination. Now families who come to Phuket and see it the way it is are likely to prefer Pattaya.''

The senate committee members also went to Surin, where they were horrified at the takeover of the beach by restaurants, and they went to Karon and Kata, where there were similar problems, with bad water running straight into the sea at Karon.

''Who will take care of this issue?'' the senator asked more than once. [Phuketwan has said that only a new authority charged with protecting all of Phuket's beaches can succeed.]

The newly elected mayor of Cherng Talay told the gathering that his council recognised the problem at Surin beach but could do little about restaurants operating on the sand because they were in dispute with the larger Thalang local body.

[Observers see this dispute as an argument about who collects the rent, rather than a battle to save the beaches.]

''Pollution, garbage and greed are destroying Phuket's prime assets,'' Senator Tunyaratt told the meeting. She said that Pattaya beaches held weekend markets.

''On Phuket, it's 'Expo at the Beach' every day of the week,'' she said. ''The problem is so bad that tourists cannot even find their way along the path from the main road to the sand.

''Like every other centimetre of space, all the pathways have been taken over by commercial interests. There are row upon row of beach umbrellas. Once beautiful beaches are now made ugly.

'On the loungers, the tourists are trapped. Every kind of seller comes along to offer them goods.''

Fellow committee member Senator Suratam Pantusak asked: ''Phuket, how did you let this happen? People are not even able to find their way to the beaches.

''If you Phuket people went to other parts of the world and found the beaches treated like this, you would not go back to those places.''

He said that the beaches were just one part of Phuket's rapid deterioration as a destination.

''Families once were able to go to Soi Bangla in Patong,'' he said. ''But not any more. The go-go bars are now obvious at street level. The purpose of some of the bars, selling sex, is more obvious than it once was.

''It will not be long before families, deciding between Pattaya and Phuket, choose to go to Pattaya because its beaches are cleaner and it has less of a reputation as a sex city.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Well done to the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism for speaking out.

But as many Thai and expats who live in Phuket are well aware, for those who are 'destroying' our beaches it is all about money, nothing else.

Respect for the Law, consideration for the environment, consideration for the future of Phuket and consideration for one's fellow man are totally irrelevant to those who exploit Phuket.


Posted by Simon Luttrell on March 2, 2012 11:07


Well said, so did anyone actually answer who is responsible or were they all skirting the issues, as they each hurried out the meeting to their new Mercs?

About time a Thai authority is disgusted with Phuket like everyone else who is here to Enjoy Phuket and not make money scams.

So when is the next meeting? Interesting indeed!

Posted by Tbs on March 2, 2012 11:12


This is exactly what Phuket needed and a LOT of people have been hoping for.

I wish the Senators would read PW. A rather complete list of worst problems on Phuket can be easily compiled from the articles published here in the past 2 to 3 years.

Posted by Steve C. on March 2, 2012 11:20


While it is true I can swim along Pataya's beaches year round without the same onslaught of trash that I find along most Phuket Beaches from May to November the water quality is still far better here than Pataya. Keeping the water quality up should be the first and highest priority. Removing all the chairs, tables, umbrellas and touts and then people start getting ill because of the water quality would be a far larger problem one that Pataya went through many years back.

Posted by mike on March 2, 2012 11:21


Corruption . . . you cant beat the stealing. Until corruption is banished, the rich will get richer and poor will also get richer. Only the tourist numbers decrease. The demise may be a bit sooner than 10 years, more like two methinks. No I dont have a solution for you and I am not whining, whingeing etc, only observing.

Posted by dun on March 2, 2012 11:34


The meeting fell quiet. ''We need to know. Somebody must be responsible, otherwise there is no hope for Phuket. Within 10 years, it will be over. These beaches are like slums.''

I didn't think anyone would notice.

Posted by Ty on March 2, 2012 12:04


Good start, but how much is sincere and how much is just smoke to give the Dem's a bloody nose?

Also, some of the problems relate to general infrastructure and you can't complain too loudly w/o give Phuket more budget that is not linked to the number of registered population. We all know it's understated.

Posted by GiantFan on March 2, 2012 12:38


Hopefully the Senate will do more than just raise these rather obvious questions, but good look to them, rescuing the beaches of Phuket is long over due

Posted by Roger Gibson on March 2, 2012 12:47


This is incredible. A Thai politician telling the truth and not mincing words. My hat is off to her, and I do indeed wish her the best of luck.

Posted by fw on March 2, 2012 13:11


Excellent article which I read has already been unanimously well received. I hope & pray the Senate Committee follows up on this noble start.

I can remember when I first visited Phuket, walking on (sinking into) white sand on Karon Beach that squeaked beneath your feet, it was so fine. Now it is gritty & discoloured & running on the beach in the evening is like running on gravel.

The comments about Pattaya surpassing Phuket is truly astounding when I think back to past criticism of Pattaya. Has Pattaya improved that much OR has Phuket declined so badly?

I do know from reader's past comments that the transport system in Pattaya is better organised & a fraction the price of Phuket. That alone would be a telling factor.

With regards to Soi Bangla in Patong, I thought the idea was to remove the bars to the back of the town & make Bangla a pleasant pedestrian only thoroughfare for families to stroll in the evening?

Posted by Logic on March 2, 2012 14:40


I visited Phuket first time in 1997. Second and third times were with my family in 2010 (Bang Tao)and 2011 (Karon). The chance between 90s and today is shocking; people in Phuket has became so greed that I havent seen anything like that anywhere else. I have to say that we will not be back in Phuket ever again. Sorry.

Posted by Erkki on March 2, 2012 15:29


Waste water in Karon!, try searching google images for these keywords - aerial panorama and patong! Why is the water brown?

Posted by anonymous on March 2, 2012 15:33


I'm so sad to hear about this, but not entirely surprised, unfortunately. On our New Jetsetter travels, we have seen this happen to a vast number of properties we enjoyed 10 or 20 years ago (in Cozumel, Yucatan Peninsula, Florida etc.) and it's a really big problem. Quite a turn-off for visitors.

Posted by Deborah Thompson on March 2, 2012 15:50


So yet another group is appalled by the condition of Phuket's beaches. And yet another group asks, "how has it come to this, and who is responsible for it?" Right.

Rather than ask the same old questions, they should be searching for answers. Create a committee to organize a cogent plan, appoint those needed to carry out that plan, and enact that plan before it becomes too late.

I like PW's solution that a "new authority" takes control of protecting the beaches. But the biggest problem still remains: Who will step forward and decisively take the initiative to create and/or institute that authority, and when?

Posted by Relox on March 2, 2012 16:00


Dear Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, please get in contact with Phuripat Theerakulpisut. Would be a good place to start.

Posted by Lena on March 2, 2012 20:42


they're running out of space on the sand, stalls on floating platforms at the waters edge are next.

Posted by traveller on March 2, 2012 22:41


This is my first time to Patong, second time to Thailand. I will ever return, and I will be making sure anyone I care about doesn't come here either.

Phuket is a beautiful place, and the Patong that I see looking out my Hotel window, the Cancer. Scary. I strongly suggest acting fast, locals. It's a vicious circle as sooner or later, only grimy tourists will frequent this grimy locale.

Between the questionable policing, rare yet obvious underage prostitution, random farang violence, scams of all nature, TukTuks peddling "CocaCola", and complete philandering...

In 24 hours I met a young Australian woman punched in the face, unprovoked. The young Thai man sprinted off faster than could be seen. Then, instead of being helped, they were ejected from the bar. Tonight, I seen another young Australian woman drugged out of her mind and the boyfriend crying and screaming because she was "dosed" with something. Did anyone do anything to help? Nope.

The driver just wanted his Baht and the woman out of the Mini-van. Horrible. Lastly, at Patong Beach this morning, I witnessed an older well kept (not a degenerate) Indian woman who tripped in the distance. I was sort of worried, but too far to do anything. Anyways, she got up on her own and made it about 5 meters to have a seat and collect herself, I'm sure. By this time I was passing by and tried to help as a middle-aged Thai man began yelling at her to get up or pay.

I sincerely hope something will change, but I have my doubts. I will never completely feel safe here seeing what I've seen, and definitely not hearing what I've heard.

Posted by Aaron M. on March 10, 2012 04:04


Just look at Hawaii beautiful clean water, no venders at all but still has many tourist coming every year. Some come year after year spending large amounts of money and loving every minute. Phuket need to step into the the game of keeping tourism here and not going elsewhere. It's not hard save the beaches before it's too late. Stand up for what's right. Money can help Phuket or kill it. Keep in mind that other tourist markets are opening up soon and we here could lose big time. Hello Burma. Phuket Government, step in to the game and fix this or the tourist will go away.

Posted by charlie on April 3, 2012 11:54

Monday May 20, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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