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Sunscreen protection at Phuket's Patong beach on July 9

Phuket Innovation of the Year Award

Saturday, December 27, 2014
Phuketwan Innovation of the Year 2014

PHUKET: There were two umbrella revolutions in 2014. In the first, the people of Hong Kong rose up against China and communism and demanded a small slice of democracy.

In the second, the non-democratic military authorities in Thailand suppressed capitalist radicals by clearing thousands of umbrellas from the beaches of Phuket, along with the sunbeds beneath them.

Sadly, Hong Kong's umbrella revolution has sputtered to a halt. Surprisingly, Phuket's umbrella revolution is still being fought.

It's a long way from the sands of Iwo Jima to the sands of Patong beach - and the winner of the holiday island's umbrella war has yet to plant a victory flag.

Nevertheless, we believe we've seen enough action to declare Phuket's beach clearances the Phuketwan Innovation of the Year, the first of this year's annual award winners.

As this was the military, the strike along the beaches probably came predawn and without warning. By the time the vendors of Surin, Kamala and Patong realised what was happening, they were well and truly furled.

The accounting principle is not difficult to understand: the beaches are public space.

The privateers had been making large amounts of money through tourist season after tourist season on the assumption that they, as members of the public, were entitled to use the public space to turn a profit.


There has yet to be an adequate explanation as to why so many small businesses had to go while one or two larger businesses were allowed to stay.

Nobody could have predicted that the coup in May would reveal the military's liking for holiday beaches to be free from sunbeds and lotus-eating layabouts.

The men in uniform may have expected all the tourists to cheer as they cleared illegal restaurants and beach clubs from the shorefronts.

Wrong. Some tourists cheered, others did not.

The intervention was timely: on some of Phuket's beaches, adventurous opportunists had already claimed public beach space as private turf and, without a war, would have made fresh fortunes.

Certainly, some of the vendors are not wealthy people.

But if Phuket's police investigators are to be believed, there are also sunbed supremacists who extorted large sums from resorts, owned substantial homes, expensive cars, and enjoyed regular family visits to Europe.

The counter-insurgency began on Phuket's beaches soon after the military decided that the local councils should be doing what they have always supposed to be doing: enforcing the law. (Large guffaws are permitted at this point in the article.)

When it comes to the beaches, Phuket's councils have never been able to enforce the law.

The military appears to imagine that, now the beaches have been cleared, the councils are suddenly going to change their habits. This leaves Phuketwan puzzled and perplexed.

Our verdict is that if the military wants to keep the beaches cleared, an independent Phuket Beach Authority should be created, with the Royal Thai Navy enforcing the regulations on public space and helping the lifeguards to protect tourists.

Navy patrols should be mounted every day at every beach. Without enforcement, the war is lost. Victory becomes defeat.

Phuket and its tourism industry is better off following the examples of neighboring provinces Krabi and Phang Nga by banning vendors, sunbeds, umbrellas, jet-skis and parasails.

The government will suffer a severe loss of face if, over the next 12 months, commerce returns to Phuket's beaches.

For now, the military are the winners of the Phuketwan Innovation of the Year 2014 award.

Previous winners of the Phuket Innovation of the Year have included the 'Safer Phuket' initiative, Thanyapura Phuket, the honorary consuls meetings, the Tin Mine Museum, the court mediation system, Ao Po Grand Marina and the Red Mountain Golf Course.

We'd present the award in person if only we weren't banned from the military HQ at the Royal Thai Navy 3 base at Cape Panwa.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Is back to the fifties a victory?

The few who agree are not the beachgoers.

Posted by Cecil on December 27, 2014 19:12


I couldn't agree more. The military has done a terrific job. May the new arrangement continue far into the future.

Posted by Day on December 27, 2014 20:33


Very much a Pyrrhic victory- Kamala was never completely cleared and more creep is occurring every day- failure to maintain the momentum has had the expected results as we slide back towards the status quo.

The taxi drivers are back in their illegal stands and parking along Beach Road in Patong remains consistent. Para sails and jet skis continue to ply their trade as well along most beaches.

So-called significant arrests in Patong either didn't happen or reporting on them was subdued. Kamala, Cherng Talay district and other northern areas saw no significant arrests and the taxi drivers who were prosecuted are back to work.

A very rose coloured perception of what could have been significant change. Its a shame the Army didn't stop here longer.

Posted by Mister Ree on December 27, 2014 22:14


Never posted before but a follower of this site. Just wanted to say found this piece excellent on so many levels. HNY to one and all and the Editor in particular.

Posted by Newbe on December 27, 2014 23:10


The military started a 100m sprint, in which they got out of breath already after 50 meters, without realizing that they actually have a marathon race in front of them.

Posted by Georg The Viking on December 28, 2014 09:00


5555 stupid morisen must be choking..did he really think in his tiny brain that things were really going to change.If so it confirms he is indeed a NUTTER!!! 5555

Posted by Mark on December 28, 2014 09:01

Editor Comment:

Laughing inappropriately is usually the sign of a nutter, Mark/Andre/Mal. So is foolish obsession. Let's hope in the new year you are accurately diagnosed and treated.


Too premature. Everything is sliding back to what it was. Of the 100 and something taxi drivers and the mayor arrested in Karon, how many have been found guilty? How many in jail?

Let's see where we are next year at this time.

Posted by Sir Burr on December 28, 2014 09:25


Yes, give the military credit for clearing the beaches for now, but unfortunately I think that ones that stand to profit longterm from the situation are the authorities and people that are going to "sell" the rights to use the beach once again. The history of Thailand shows a complete lack of interest in enforcing laws and regulations and there is no reason to believe that handling of beaches and coastal areas should be any different.

Posted by Sailor on December 28, 2014 12:26


I do not know how many sunbeds were previously on Patong beach but it was thousands. I have spent more than 100 days on this beach over the last few years and on every day many of these sunbeds were occupied. Clearly most tourist were prepared to pay for the beds and umbrellas rather than sit on the sand in full sun (there was always space on the beach to do this if you preferred). Some of the people who enjoyed the sunbeds might be prepared to have a sore bum and sore shoulders in future but what will all the others do? Many hotels don't have pools and many of the ones that do don't have enough sunbeds and umbrellas to cater for all the guests who previously preferred the beach. There are two possible conclusions to this saga. The return of sunbeds and umbrellas in one form or another or fewer tourists.

The obvious answer is controlled and regulated sunbeds and umbrellas on the beach. If this is not done the illegal ones will creep back.

The removal of sunbeds at the same time as allowing the jet skis to remain is laughable and not deserving of any award.

Posted by Richard on December 28, 2014 21:57

Editor Comment:

You are merging two separate issues: sunbeds and jet-skis. So I'll do likewise. The jet-skis certainly shouldn't be there. Krabi and Phang Nga don't need them - why does Phuket? The same could be said of the sunbeds - Krabi and Phang Nga don't need them - why does Phuket? The beaches are better without both the jet-skis and the sunbeds.If Phuket can also deal effectively with extortionate taxi and tuk-tuk prices, the island won't have to worry about its future. To suggest that sunbeds are a part of the equation is laughable.


Editor may I respectfully ask that you re-read your headline "To The Military for Phuket's Beach Clearance". The beach has been cleared of sunbeds but not Jet Skis. Some people want sun beds and nobody (other than operators and those who control them) want jet skis. This is what is laughable and you have presented them with an award.

Posted by Richard on December 28, 2014 23:06

Editor Comment:

Don't fret. If the jet-skis follow the sunbeds, whoever succeeds in getting rid of them will be up for next year's award. The clearances not only included the sunbeds and umbrellas but also illegal restaurants and beach clubs. As the article says: ''Phuket and its tourism industry is better off following the examples of neighboring provinces Krabi and Phang Nga by banning vendors, sunbeds, umbrellas, jet-skis and parasails.''


I tend to agree with Sir Burr.
The powers that be should have sat together first, made a plan, inform the people on site, give them time to adjust (after so many years...), then agree, or lacking that, impose what they wanted.
Probably good timing would have been at the end of this so called high season.
Now there is no enforcement and what we see is the same culprits coming back with a vengeance.

Posted by Paul on December 29, 2014 01:44

Editor Comment:

There are always going to be people after any event who believe it should have been carried out differently.


Great Innovation mr. Ed. i have to say very superb. These days, Tuk Tuk's are back again in the same numbers and the same places as before, Taxi from airport to Patong now costs metered 875 Baht instead of negotiated 800 before, Jet skis and their operators received a license to kill if swimmers dear to swim in so called but not signaled Jet Ski Zones, beach sellers are back again and for 100 baht you receive now smaller mats and mini umbrellas instead of the equipment before but at the end also there nothing has changed. So tell me now please, what great achievement is it you are dreaming all the days about ?

Posted by fred on December 29, 2014 01:59

Editor Comment:

Fortunately, fred, it's the Phuketwan award not the Doomsayers award.



Posted by Amazed in Thailand on December 29, 2014 07:28

Editor Comment:

Check the files, AT, you'll see that we were suggesting that the Royal Thai Navy take charge of Phuket's beaches long before we were sued. Interesting that they are allowing deranged in-patients access to computers these days . . .


Well deserved. The Military have done the easy bit... now enforcement is needed. Something I feel the Military (all factions of it) are not capable of. Neither are the police. A totally independent body is needed without any of the current authorities involved is the only hope for ensuring the cleared beaches remain cleared (and are cleared further in the case of Jet-skis).

Posted by Duncan on December 29, 2014 10:34


I am not fretting. If I don't like the changes there are lots of other places to visit in the future. Other tourist comments are saying the same thing.

Your innovation of the year accolade could have been awarded in conjunction with the whole "Indo-China Tourist Alliance"

Posted by Richard on December 29, 2014 20:25

Editor Comment:

The beach takeovers were generated by popularity and greed. The Indo-China Tourist Alliance will face the same problems.

Saturday June 6, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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