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Surin beach on Sunday: plastic blocks ready for a pontoon pier

Phuket's 'Private' Beaches Need to All Be Made Public, And Fast

Monday, November 21, 2011
News Analysis

PHUKET: The blue plastic blocks waiting yesterday on Surin beach to be converted into an illegal floating pier plainly show that Phuket needs a single new authority to oversee all the island's beaches.

Phuketwan understands why some people want to claim a private slice of one of Phuket's public beaches. It's appealing, and it means lots of money.

At present, sadly and shockingly, there are no rules.

One day, a restaurateur who has operated on a beach for 20 years (and without taking over the entire shorefront) will find himself lined up against 100 officials and a grader-excavator.

Another day at a second beach, another restaurateur prepares to add a floating pier to the vast expanse of sand already occupied by tables and chairs, with freshwater showers for guests implanted in the sand.

At a third beach, Kamala, the battle is already lost, as we discovered at the weekend. Commercial interests have smothered and suffocated the original charms of the once-pristine stretch of sand.

Is it too late for Phuket's beaches? The dangers are evident to us. Leave action any longer, and Phuket's prime natural public assets will all be privatised.

What's needed is consistency, an even approach by a single authority that treats Phuket's beaches as assets for everyone, and protects them all equally well.

Some odd ideas are being put forward to support the privatisation of Phuket's beaches.

Phuketwan rejects the warped notion that Phuket's beaches are public, and therefore any local is entitled to use the sand for business purposes of all kinds.

The matter is now extremely urgent. From what we saw at the weekend at Kamala and Surin and to a lesser degree at Bang Tao, Phuket's beaches are at tipping-point.

For the island to have a long-term future as a beach holiday destination, the administration on Phuket or the Government in Bangkok needs to intercede - not just to remove one vendor from one beach, but to remove all vendors from all beaches.

Then it will be time to start again, to properly assess what tourists want and what Phuket truly needs. But please, for the sake of all Phuket beaches and for the future of Phuket tourism, give us consistency and a single authority with one set of rules for all.

Comments

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It's illegal to use public space for commercial purposes in Thailand, and that includes the beaches, of course. The beaches need protection, they need to remain public and they need to be free from any manipulation or construction. It's also illegal to use a sidewalk for commercial purposes, which might come as a shock to anybody that ever visited Thailand, but the sidewalk does not need protection like a beach does.

Posted by christian on November 21, 2011 13:42

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Hopeless as it is only "Money Talk" between lawbreakers and those in power at local administration.
Only a strike by local people with the help of sea protection association may bring Phuket Governor to get out of the wood.
Look at what is happening when a road is blocked yesterday for a motorcycle accident near Yacht Haven! it works.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on November 21, 2011 13:55

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At the other end of the beach there was basically a wedding chapel set up on the sand complete with chairs and even light stands for the photographer. They were taking up at least 50 metres of beach front sand.

Right at the end of the beach there was a Russian couple and a photographer that had set up tables on the sand complete with candles, flowers and a big wire framed arch of flowers. It looked more like an advertising shoot for a magazine or website rather than a genuine wedding.

Then of course the floating pier was taking up about 30 metres of sand.
I'm not actually against people doing business at the beach. Just get off the sand and leave a bit of the beach for the public to enjoy.

Posted by logbags on November 21, 2011 14:17

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I lived along Waikiki beach for three years and I guess one could make the same complaints that the article and others are making, but why? If you want an empty beach you can go as far away from people as you can get and find one. However like Hawaii that still gets loads of tourists more people means less open beach and more things for tourists to enjoy along the beach (restaurants piers ETC) that's life, ask for more management but to ask for the beaches to go back to the way they were when no one was here is just plain crazy.

Posted by mike on November 21, 2011 15:33

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A simple solution would be to require all businesses along beaches to be licensed and regulated, with frequent law enforcement inspections of their licenses and permits. Violators should face a steep fine, have their tables, chairs and similar items removed, and be charged with the cost of that removal.

Posted by Paoa on November 21, 2011 15:53

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I do wonder whether Phuketwan ever actually uses a beach, or just wants to take photos of them.

Lying on a beach for 5 or 6 hours on a towel is extremely uncomfortable; that's why there are sunloungers.

That big yellow thing in the sky is the sun. It is hot, sometimes very hot. That's why there are umbrellas.

People can't always bring their own food. Some do; they are called Russians.

That's why there are restaurants.

If you want to be eaten alive by sand flies on a dirty beach, the beaches are cleaned by the beach businesses, while being roasted in the midday sun, there are hundreds of kilometres of beaches where you can be on your own.

In the meantime, try to find something more sensible to campaign about.

Posted by Patrick on November 21, 2011 19:54

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Patrick, you make some good points. However, the crux of the matter is that the line as to what businesses can use the beach, has to be drawn somewhere. The law has drawn that line for us. No 'buildings' on the beach. Sun-loungers and umbrellas are controlled by the authorities, are packed up at night and the rental guys keep their bit of the beach clean. That's ok. Building a full-blown restaurant, with walls, fences, terraces, showers and potted palms as an extension of your resort is illegal. If it isn't stamped out, the next thing they will do is build hotels right on the sand, with private, fee-based access. Is that what you want? Where would YOU draw the line? No need to answer, the line has been drawn and it is the high-water mark, clearly defined by chanote posts embedded in the ground. It is up to the police to enforce the laws, and enforce them they should. Is this what anyone wants? http://www.costaricapages.com/panama/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/florida.jpg

Posted by Mr Man on November 21, 2011 22:41

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Patrick says "People can't always bring their own food. Some do; they are called Russians." - LOL, that??s actually not far from the truth.

I agree with Patrick in the basics, we need both restaurants and chairs on the beaches, but when vendors occupies so much space on the beach that people can??t pass without going in the water they passed their limit for doing business. The most important thing is actually that the guests will have a good time, and to crowded spaces makes people want to go elsewhere. A few hotels also makes the beach "private".
I would prefer the beaches being regulated in a way that stops it being too crowded with vendors, and also hotels and restaurants not being allowed to occupy all the beach down to the waterfront.
And of course, get rid of the jet skis that in my ears only are sound pollution (and scams).

Posted by td on November 22, 2011 02:57

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Patrick. Its not the sun loungers that are a problem. It's the fact that you cannot walk the shore line unobstructed due to tow lines for an illegal jetty. Or the additional Palm trees and tables that dominate the beach.Its the flagrant disregard for authority.

Oh yes and you should do your homework, these structures are uninsured and potentially dangerous. At least one life has been lost. So I ask you to try to understand half this story is related to the random corruption driven application of the planning regulations. Why don't you just go to a solarium if you want a tan without the sand ?

Oh and by the way to caste a slur on a whole nationality, the Russians, is unacceptable. The Russian visitors have a budget strata like everyone else, I think a lot of Russian millionaire visitors would laugh in your face. So what if they want to bring their own food,are you suggesting that they are charged for not eating at the beach restaurants?

Patrick perhaps you should consider relocating to Pattaya where you may feel more at home? Or maybe we could just pave the beaches.

Posted by Surin local on November 22, 2011 07:06

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The arrogance and flouting of the law as quoted by Surin Beach's Pla Seafood owner in an earlier report is almost as offensive as that hideous blue plastic pier and must be stopped.

Posted by Media Watcher on November 22, 2011 08:42

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Interesting that suggesting Russians like to bring their own food is regarded as a slur. I was simply paying tribute to their thrifty ways; 7/11s across Phuket are also grateful to them, though bar owners less so..

The issue is whether there should be facilities on the beaches or not.

I am on the beach almost every day of the year, using it, not taking pretty pictures. It's clear to me that the sensible needs of visitors should be met. That's not to say that the present situation is completely fine, although on the beaches I am familiar with, it's all pretty well organised.

What I am opposed to is the idea that the beaches should be some picture postcard.

Phuketwan suggests that this is the way to create a 5 star future.

He has probably heard of but obviously never been to the French Riviera, still the ultimate 5 star destination, where the modern cult of the beach was born.

There the beaches provide every facility. He should take a walk along the Croisette to see that 5 star and beach facilites are perfectly compatible.

If I want to go to a beach and be on my own, there are many such, not only on Phuket, try the north of the island, but in other parts of Thailand.

Up to you.

Surin local would do well to relocate to Khao Lak or similar. There are a lot of boring people up there. You can all go to bed at 9 o'clock, after a day well spent complaining about how everything used to be better.

Posted by Patrick on November 22, 2011 11:14

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Dear Patrick.
Thank your response it was almost eloquent in parts. I am tongue in cheek right up to the part where the illegal jetty was responsible for a death.

I am a Surin local and I don't want to walk over ropes that impede me walking. I object to the flagrant breach of building code. The owner of PLA would be the first to complain if I stood on Phuket beach in front of his restaurant selling food.Remember the little fruit selling girl that got beaten up people in general become very territorial. It is the selective application on the law I object to.

I agree there should be municipal shower and toilet facilities available at the beach ( with perhaps a small charge) .

How very ignorant and elitist, the French version of beach culture is just that, a version, why does it have to be adopted here ?

The great positive thing about Phuket is that it has distinctive zones .The beaches of Patong differ from Surin Kamala etc . That means that a "non boring person like you can enjoy all the carnival atmosphere and his own jet ski in Patong, you can pay for your 2sqm of beach and have all the sun loungers you can eat.''

So actually Patrick you don't have to leave the island to get what you want, I hear they may concrete Patong Beach, no more irritating sand for you and more time to fight with the jet ski operators. Are you missing your Costa Blanca :) ?

Posted by Surin local on November 22, 2011 15:46

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As a Surin local, you are obviously entitled to have every obstacle in your way moved by an invisible crowd of servants, perhaps with scented flower petals strewn in your path at the same time.

Though quite what a Surin local means, I don't know. Probably means in your case, you have been boring the locals in Surin for a long time.

Phuketwan started this in reference to Kamala beach. When asked where the facilities should be, he said, Back from the beach.

Half of Kamala beach is bordered by the wall of the Muslim cemetery, which doesn't seem to me an ideal place for restaurants etc. Much of the rest of the beach is separated by a klong from the facilities in the village.

It's about two km from the north end of the beach to the village. So Phuketwan is in practice advocating an average 2 km walk to get a meal, or a drink.

Silly.

It is a picture postcard mentality espoused by people who clearly never use the beach.

As I have said, there are many beaches for people who want to get away from it all. Pausing only to rub cream onto your sand sores and sunburn, lights out at 6.30 will see the end of another long day as Mr Natural.

Leaving me and the others who stay in Kamala to enjoy a contented day on my sunlounger under my umbrella.

As for Patong Beach, I suspect you have more acquaintance with it than I do, Surin Local.

Though, isn't it a bit rough at 4am?

Posted by Patrick on November 22, 2011 17:36

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Congratulation to the editor for another excellent article. Hopefully trolls like Patrick will get bored posting their nonsense. Best if people just ignored, rather than replied to his posts.

Posted by agogohome on December 4, 2011 19:09

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I for one agree with Patrick wholeheartedly. I don't think he's a 'troll' at all. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Labelling someone a troll because you disagree with their opinion makes you the troll, and you'll probably start to look like one too. Don't be deterred, Patrick!

Posted by Graham on December 5, 2011 22:11

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Surin Beach yesterday, 30th January 2012, typified everything that is wrong and corrupt about Phuket.

The illegal floating pier is a disgrace and this once beautiful beach has been turned into one of the worst beaches I have ever seen in South East Asia. The sea is sectioned off into 'Swimming lanes' and the amount of 'plastic' in the water and on land is deplorable.

I was embarrassed to take my friends there yesterday and the authorities in Phuket should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this type of destruction to happen.

Posted by Roger Gibson on January 31, 2012 08:14

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What is wrong with the pier in Surin?
Possible its unlawful, but is the law always right?
You can take a walk out on the pier, swim there outside without have to swim so far and its a good security to get not overrun by a jetsky or a boat, as the drivers will not easily dare to come to near to that pier barrier.
The Palmtrees on the beach? I know a lot more bad things you could put there.

Posted by Alfred on February 7, 2012 00:50


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