PHUKET: While on Phuket this week, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met key Phuket tourism leaders to discuss rip-offs, jet-skis and the state of Phuket's beaches, Phuketwan can reveal.
PM Yingluck now has a list of all Phuket's beaches and the problems that are gradually destroying them, with unwanted privatisation evident on most of those beaches.
Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, Chair of the Senate Senate Standing Committee on Tourism, said that she talked directly to the PM.
She also presented the PM with her own photographs of key Phuket beaches, supporting her contention that some of them are today ''no better than slums'' because of uncontrolled commercial activities.
The senator led a group of about 12 Phuket tourism industry and business leaders who met with PM Yingluck before Tuesday's historic Cabinet meeting on Phuket.
Phuket's beaches, jet-skis and tourist rip-offs were the main focus of the discussion, Senator Tunyaratt said.
Phuketwan understands that PM Yingluck was so keen to follow up on the key topics of that conversation that she called a meeting after Cabinet met on Tuesday with the Minister for Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Culture.
PM Yingluck's visit may yet become a defining moment in the future of tourism on Phuket because she is now aware of the island's key issues.
One small but powerful tourism lobby group on Phuket wants Phuket's problems to be kept out of news reports. They do not see the need for change, only for secrecy and suppression.
Somehow they imagine that in the 21st century, with scores of tourists around the world instantly posting honest comments about the good and the bad of their holidays on the Internet, the negatives on Phuket will be overlooked.
Senator Tunyaratt is among those who see Phuket's problems clearly and, rather than have them hidden, would prefer that the problems be fixed - for the good of Phuket and Thailand.
Our view is well-known. We want Phuket's problems fixed, not hidden.
Phuketwan was verbally abused last week by a senior office-bearer at a Phuket tourism organisation. This person suggested we close down and leave Phuket.
We have no intention of responding to that kind of bullying and thuggery, and we intend to continue to report in a fair and balanced way about Phuket - both the good, and the bad.
We also fully support Senator Tunyaratt and the realists in tourism who can see that unless Phuket changes for the better, it will eventually be destroyed.
This does not mean that Phuketwan is suggesting that tourists go elsewhere for their holidays - quite the opposite. Phuket remains a great place to unwind and enjoy a break.
But the warning signs are there.
Unless the gradual destruction of Phuket's beaches is halted, the future will be grim. If the beauty of Phuket is destroyed by a greedy few, the next generation of Thais will not be able to enjoy the benefits of tourism.
For this reason, Phuketwan advocates an end to beach corruption with the creation of a new, single beach authority for Phuket.
Instead of going into the pockets of a greedy few, the income from properly regulated commercial activities on Phuket's beaches can go towards maintaining and protecting them.
They are, after all, Phuket's most valuable public assets. A wise prime minister will make sure they are saved for future generations to enjoy.
with additional reporting by Nuansiri Chirunkamolwut