Phuket authorities continue to struggle to understand beach culture and have little hope of striking the balance they seek in foolishly allowing private enterprise back on the beaches, a survey by Phuketwan reporters has found.
Nai Harn beach on Phuket's southern coast may have recently been voted the third best beach in Asia by readers of TripAdvisor. But destruction of the beach environment goes on rapidly now and the more popular the beach becomes, the greater the speed of the destruction.
Our conclusion: Unless Governor Nisit Jansomwong has a magic wand, his plan to ban all beach chairs and provide an umbrella zone of 10 percent of Phuket's beaches is doomed to fail. What's more, it is likely to cost Phuket plenty of tourists who prefer freedom to regimentation.
The Phuketwan weekend survey took in Ya Nui, Nai Harn, Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches.
At all of those beaches, the tourists' byo umbrellas were evident in substantial numbers and scattered all over the sands. This is because, as everyone with an understanding of beach culture knows, people want freedom of choice.
They don't want to be parked by officials at the back of the beach, leaving them to hot-foot it scores of metres before they reach the water's edge. They don't want to be right alongside the Russian couple, playing music too loudly through their boom box.
That's the beauty of the best beaches in Australia and the US - the freedom to find your own stretch of territory on the sand.
Neat rows of umbrellas at the back of the sand could once be found at some Phuket beaches. But that was before the beaches became so popular that one line of umbrellas was no longer enough.
Governor Nisit is now trying to restore commercialism at Phuket's beaches without understanding the degree of difficulty. The tourists will fight for their own stretch of sand.
And they will want to keep bringing their own beach chairs.
At the same time, the umbrella and mat hirers will be trying to expand their territory beyond the 10 percent. Why? because that's how Phuket beach vendors have been trained to think for the past 30 years.
In trying to tame both the tourists and the umbrella hirers, Governor Nisit is taking on far more than Phuket authorities have ever been able to manage.
Until Phuket has an independent Phuket Beach Authority with enforcement provided by the Royal Thai Navy, Governor Nisit and his successors will dream on.
While people may delight in having Nai Harn declared the third best beach in Asia, a close inspection shows that erosion is rapidly destroying the back of the beach. Motorcycles and pickups are parked on the grassy glade that makes the foreshore such a pleasant place.
Increasing popularity means speedier erosion and the more rapid loss of the parkland. Two children were digging a huge hole in the glade area.
There was no sign of any kind of beach warden. No enforcement of standards, not even Phuket standards let alone international standards.
What Phuket has now must be protected.
In paying attention only to the commercial aspects of the beaches, Governor Nisit, like his predecessors, is ignoring what Phuket's beaches really need: proper protection and enforcement.
Protection and enforcement can only come if the island's authorities care. If they cared, commerce would still be banned. Regulations would be enforced.
An independent Phuket Beach Authority and the Royal Thai Navy would be in action.
We see no signs of that yet.