PHUKET: Phuketwan articles were being projected onto a large screen today at the Phuket beaches summit as an indication of how Phuket was being reported to tourists around the world.
Thailand's Minister for Tourism and Sport, Somsak Pureesrisak, was at the gathering with the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Tourism and Phuket officials.
All mayors are there, as well as Phuket's Governor, police, Immigration and local people, making up a gathering of about 300 people.
The senators yesterday toured Phuket's west coast beaches to see for themselves the environmental problems that have occured with increasing commercialisation.
During high season, most of Phuket's famous beaches disappear under row after row of beach umbrellas and lounges. Encroachment is increasing.
Like the equally precious coral reefs, Phuket's beaches are coming under unbearable pressure from mass tourism.
The chair of the Senate committee, Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, is scheduled to explain the issues associated with Phuket's beaches to the gathering at the Kata Beach Resort.
With sustainability likely to emerge as the real issue, some officials are attempting to blame the ''foreign media'' for depicting Phuket's beaches in a poor light.
THE MINISTER said that Phi Phi, Phangan, Samui, Patong, Phuket Town and Cape Promthep already had additional funding set aside for improvements in the national government's 2015 budget.
He said Phuket's problems were illustrated by the tourists who came up to the touring senators yesterday to complain at Kamala beach.
''We have to solve these problems,'' he said. ''The main issue is that Phuket has had a sudden surge in tourism without proper infrastructure.''
He then listed his 13 Phuket problems as follows:
1. Increasing arrivals, poor infrastructure
3. No controlling strategy, development occurring all over
4. Environmental degradation
5. Attacks on beaches and public land
6. Garbage mounting
7. Bad water
8. Tourists' and residents' safety and security
9. Rip-offs (timeshare touts etc.)
10. Tour guides
11. Authorities at odds with private sector
12. Taxis and jet-skis
13. Zero baht tours
''I came to Phuket a long time ago and now, basically nothing has changed,'' the minister said. ''The problems have never been solved.
''We had the news this week that Patong was flooded. These things happen because you people have blocked the canals. If you do these things, you get what you deserve.
The Number 1 problem is taxis and tuk-tuks outside resorts and hotels. They band together in gangs and abuse people. They won't allow competition.
''When police arrest a taxi driver, politicians come to bail them out. I don't want to let this continue to happen.
''I have reported this matter to the Thai Royal Police chief. We are going to fight it.''
He added that jet-ski rip-offs continued to be a problem. ''Insurance was a good idea but it did not work completely,'' he said.
The problems was ''too big for the governors,'' he said.
The meeting is continuing.
[Phuketwan is a Thai news outlet with a Thai and international audience. The site has a strong record of accurate reporting and has won international awards. Phuketwan has a reputation for pursuing issues of human rights, public safety, environmental degradation and corruption.
Phuketwan has advocated the establishment of an independent Phuket Beach Authority to protect and preserve all Phuket beaches, free from greed and corruption. ]