The contentious area, now under investigation, extends back on the south side of Soi Bangla from the beach road in a triangular shape, the Senior Officer of Patong Municipality, Poonsak Naksena, said yesterday.
''More than two decades ago it was public land, no question about that,'' he said. ''Now we have to assess whether it should be returned to public use.''
The man who could best explain what happened with the land, influential former Patong mayor Pian Keesin, died last year. It's thought that the land was offered to beach vendors to get them off the foreshore, under norsorlor titles.
Those titles cease if the original benefactor moves on or if the land is used for a purpose other than the original purpose.
It's believed most of the original benefactors have sold their interests to others - including some foreigners - long ago. The arrangement is similar to that at Surin beach, created after the 2004 tsunami to help locals recover.
As at Surin, the 33 blocks involved at Soi Bangla have become bars or shops, and the ''owners'' have benefitted from years of prosperity with increasing numbers of tourists visiting Phuket.
A committee comprising Khun Poonsak, the present mayor of Patong, Chalermlak Kebsub, the Chief of Kathu Police Station and Vice Governor Suthee Tongyam are looking into the ownership conundrum.