THE Commander of Royal Thai Navy 3, Vice Admiral Saiyan Prasongsamret, has called a meeting with senior officials and Phuket police for Sunday to make sure they understand that tourists are able to bring their own chairs to the beaches. Police at Patong had scheduled arrests and fines from Monday.
PHUKET: Phuket police changed the wording of a ludicrous ''brochure'' handed out to tourists on Patong beach yesterday but apparently are still determined to make the whole tourist industry in Thailand seem foolish by arresting and fining beachgoers from Monday.
The mistake appears to be being made by senior police on the international holiday island who are misinterpreting rules laid out by the military government of Thailand and the Phuket Governor, Nisit Jansomwong.
He and the Commander of the Royal Thai Navy 3 base, Vice Admiral Saiyan Prasongsamret, both made it plain earlier this week that tourists may bring anything they like to Phuket's beaches, within reason - including umbrellas, chairs, food and beverages.
Yet police from Kathu Police Station, which oversees Patong, have been handing out fliers to tourists on the beach saying: ''No Summer Dream on Beach, Start 12 Feb. 2015.'' Then underneath in the Thai language it says: ''Not allowed to put the chairs on the beach.''
Some beachgoers were intelligent enough to work out that the obscure language means that beach chairs are now banned.
Today, new fliers emerged that showed a slightly better grasp of the English language: ''No beach bed do not put beach bed on beach start 12 Feb'' with some Thai language underneath.
The connection with February 12 appeared loose as officers said the arrests and fining of tourists who brought chairs to the beach would actually begin on February 16, which is Monday.
Any police officer who tries to arrest a tourist for bringing a beach chair to Patong beach on Monday is likely to achieve instant fame - for making Thailand look foolish.
The problem appears to be a breakdown in communications between the Navy, the Governor and local police, the officials who are obliged to enforce the clearance of commerce from Phuket's beaches that began soon after the military took control of Thailand on May 22 last year.
German tourists complained about the wrong-headed edict yesterday but that failed to stop police handing out roses to good tourists on Patong beach today who lay on mats for Saint Valentines Day and the now-notorious flyers to other tourists seated on beach chairs.
Arrests and fines are unlikely to follow on Patong beach on Monday but misunderstandings can and have led to remarkable mistakes in the past and this could be another one.
The honorary consul for Germany, Anette Jimenez Hochstetter, went to Patong today to assess the problem following complaints from German tourists who have been bringing and using their own chairs at the beach.
''I will be perturbed if anyone is arrested and fined for bringing their own beach chair to a Phuket beach,'' she said later.
The understanding of tourists and all of the envoys on Phuket and in Bangkok is that people are entitled to bring their own umbrellas and chairs to all of Phuket's beaches.
The new rules are designed to prevent these and other items being rented out and therefore becoming a private commercial activity of the kind that has been banned at the beaches.
Part of the confusion has arisen because umbrellas and mats can now be rented at Patong and other beaches under a compromise aimed to provide an income for poorer workers.
Signs at the beach now tell tourists they can rent umbrellas and mats.
Yet out-of-control renting on the beaches is what caused the problem in the first place, with some of Phuket best public beaches disappearing almost entirely under profit-taking umbrellas and sunbeds during the peak season.
Instead of 10 percent of Patong beach being given over to renters, as the compromise deal specifies, vast areas are now again under rented umbrellas. It's chaotic and confusing - and any arrests of tourists from Monday will be a catastrophe for Thailand.
An eloquent comment to Phuketwan today from one of the island's most respected hoteliers made the point clearly that confused authorities are putting at risk the holiday island's whole future.
More craziness from Monday will see Phuket lose its best friends - those who have stuck with the island's beaches despite the loss of the sunbeds and service on the sand.
Phuketwan continues to believe that experiments will further damage the reputation of Phuket, especially if they are misinterpreted by local police who clearly do not relish the job of being beach enforcers.
Let Phuketwan say once again: What Phuket needs is an independent Phuket Beach Authority to impose consistency in rules at all beaches and to have the Royal Thai Navy in charge to enforce the regulations it clearly understands and supports.
Anything less than that isn't going to work.
Here's the hotelier's message. Let's hope it is quickly understood and absorbed:
''Yesterday afternoon I had about ten frustrated,angry and confused long term customers , who have been coming go Patong for years, returning from the beach requesting an explanation with regards to the 'summer beach dream start' letter.
''The guests just do not understand why such an absurd idea is introduced.
''They do not understand why they can not bring their own folding chairs to the beach.
''All of these repeating guests will not return to Phuket or Patong next year .
''One of our guests is a lady with a husband in a wheel chair whose winter pleasure for the past 10 years was to come to Patong to sit on a beach chair and get a massage several time a day.
''She purchased foldable chairs upon arriving and could use them for the first week of their stay.
''She does not understand why she can not use the foldable chairs any longer. This lady was crying out of frustration , anger for a ruined holiday.
''It's truly a sad story for many repeating an loyal customers.
''This morning I went to Patong beach to have a look and talked to one of the police officers on duty who is ordered to tell guests that they can not bring their own foldable chairs or loungers. The police man was 'stressed' to the maximum as he 'hates' his job to spoil our tourists holidays.
''This situation is truly amazing and damaging the beach experience for many of our guests to a point of no return.
''It seems business has to get a lot worse before we start listening to what some of our guests want.''