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Careless smokers are adding to the rapid deterioration of prime natural sites

Similans Beaches Becoming Asia's Ashtray

Thursday, April 11, 2013
PHUKET: The Similan Islands - perhaps the jewel in the Phuket region for the diving industry - is losing its lustre to hordes of Korean and Chinese tourists.

Increasing numbers of visitors on day trips from those two countries especially are being blamed for the degredation of the popular reefs and beaches in the group.

''There is no regard for the environment or knowledge of how the beaches and the reefs are precious and need protecting,'' a ranger has told Phuketwan.

The large number of smokers among the day-trippers come in for exceptional criticism.

''Korea and China seem to have more smokers than most, and these people smoke everywhere and drop their butts eveerywhere,'' the ranger said.

''We are forced to clean the beaches every evening and even then, we can't keep the place looking naturally beautiful.''

Smoking is banned at some beaches in Australia to keep the telltale butts off the sand.

Rangers are hoping that the tour groups will grow more educated about the need for environmental protection.

But with numbers of visitors from China continuing to increase, the concern is that the Similans may become more of an ashtray before improvements come.

Visits to the Similans are suspended from May 16 to October 31 when it's hoped the islands will look relatively pristine again.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


It is well know that cig butts can kill turtles who eat them by mistake. There should be large fines with sign explaining such in Thai/English/Korean/Russian money goes to keep the park clean. Simple less people will smoke and the park has more funds. But it won't happen.

Posted by How Much Can You Pay on April 11, 2013 15:38


Here you have the link to the regulation in Marine National Parks in Thailand
Also Similan Island national Park has a limitation of tourists per day (Few hundreds per day) but greed bring National park Rangers to let new companies to register and bring as much customers they want.
On daily basis, it is at least 30-40 speedboats loaded with 30-50 tourists each (Russians, Chineses, Koreans, etc... which are on the 2 beaches (N????4 & N????8 Islands).
The funny point is that I never saw one of that tourists using the many toilets built for them and I suppose they piss into the water which is not good for the marine life.
diving liveaboard boats have a drop of more than 40% compared with other years because of bad comments on forums about the lack of large fish (Sharks, mantas, turtles, etc..) as poaching is the normal business of fishermen.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on April 11, 2013 16:03


In fact that most smokers in Similan National Parks is Russian > China > Others

Posted by Jittasak Putjorn on April 11, 2013 16:13


Ah, the pleasures of the "new tourists" - thank you, TAT! Now we just a feature article of how the Russians and their filthy bad manners is polluting the mental environment in Phuket and sorrounds.

Posted by Alex on April 11, 2013 16:15


I am not sure... is it just me or are there also others out recognising that whenever an issue is detected that a certain group of people or their (stereotypically analyzed) behavior is believed to be the only reason for the problem. Why not simply implementing clear rules and enforcing them. Why playing with xenophobic or generalising sentiments? Phuket may face a rude awakening one day if guests and (quality) tourism is not treated as a valuable good.

Posted by Josh on April 11, 2013 16:25


A Non - Smoking - Law on the islands would simply solve the problem. Fine each smoker violating THB 1.000.- on the spot and it is easy to pay the rangers from the fines. Definitely not rocket science...

Posted by Resident on April 11, 2013 16:41


such a pity what is going on there, and will continue to go on until its too late

Posted by Sean on April 11, 2013 18:37


@ Jittasak Putjorn

But of course. Whatever problems there are, Thais are always quick to blame the foreigners. Sometimes it's better to be quiet and let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubts.

@ Resident

If you think passing new laws will "simply solve" anything in Thailand, your residency can easily be counted in weeks.

Rangers can take a deep long look in the mirror for allowing illegal fishing continue unabated. Their (in)action has contributed more to the demise of Mu Koh Similan than any other activity and that by a mile.

As Whistle-Blower mentions: no fish - no tourists.

I gave up diving in Thailand because I could not face the disappointment of my customers who came with high expectations fuelled by TAT but then saw nothing but illegal fishing traps and a night skyline littered with so many squid boat lights you thought you'd moored off Manhattan.

So dear Mr Park Ranger, I hand you my "Hypocrite of the Year" award.

Posted by Stephen on April 11, 2013 19:36


ED, as a golfer, I can see that we begin to have the same problem at the golf courses on Phuket. I remember from Norway that everyone who like to smoke on the golf course could for free get a small box to drop their butts into. Then problem solved. Regarding the beaches on Phuket - we have the same problem as on The Similan Islands. Fine each smoker violating THB 1.000.- on the spot it will maybe help.

Posted by retired roadworker on April 11, 2013 19:46


Is it not more sensible just to provide the place with enough bins and places to smoke? You may prohibit smoke on the island, no problem, it won't stop smoking even if you sentence the violators to death. People, why the first thing coming to mind is prohibition and punishments? Don't you ever learn history lessons? Nothing was ever achieved by prohibitions, except the sharp rise of crominality. Bhutan prohibited smoking totally - 25-30% were smoking and still are smoking, whatever the punishments.

Posted by Russian on April 11, 2013 20:57


The Thai children will pay the price of their parents short term thinking and GREED, and lets face it its not easy for the Thais who watch us spend a couple of thai weekly wages on a night on the town, then go to the ATM next day and take out more than they earn in a month just for pocket money. Perhaps raising the ridiculously low salary of the Thai people would give them a better attitude towards responsibility. This ranger I presume gets around 300 b a day to clean up the beach, I certainly wouldn't do it for that, and I'll bet he must do it buy hand. Maybe I'm naive, but with so much money coming into Phuket and the surrounding area perhaps it's time these people got a proper raise, oh yeah I forgot, buy the time all the pockets are lined there is no money left for the man at the bottom.......GREED

Posted by Simon on April 11, 2013 21:20



I take it you have never been to China? I go there regularly, and to call chinese men in particular 'careless smokers' is not stereotyping at all, it's the terrible truth. They smoke everywhere, in elevators, restaurants, malls, you name it. And yes, they throw their butts absolutely everywhere, in the streets, on the floor inside restaurants and out the window of their cars. It's just the plain truth, Chinese people in general show a complete disregard for the environment. It's the truth, not 'stereotyping' there are countless example in china itself of places famous for natural beauty being completely degraded by domestic tourists. You want more 'stereotypes'? They also spit everywhere, yell when they talk, push their way in a line and lack basic hygiene. I can't tell you how many times I have encountered obviously wealthy people driving crazily expensive cars that still stink of sweat and have rotten teeth. And smoke of course. This is how the newy rich chinese are, you can whine all you want about xenophobia, it's just the way it is.

Posted by christian on April 11, 2013 21:49

Editor Comment:

Small l liberals need to small t travel a bit more.


@Josh, nothing xenophobic about this article, it's all true.
We were at Laem Ka beach the other day and watched as many speed boats picked up and dropped off many Chinese and Korean tourists. 99% of the men were smoking as they got on and off the boats (next to the engines too) and I watched as each one of them dropped their cigarette ends on the sand and in the sea.
I had to borrow a brush from one of the vendors on the beach to clean a small area for us to sit and picnic, again full of cigarette ends.
The rubbish on the way down to the beach was just as disgusting, many Thai families picnicking and just leaving their trash where they sat. Very sad to see.

Posted by G Horne on April 11, 2013 21:50


The countries mentioned here are the growth tourists to Thailand. Maybe have to just spend more money cleaning up or big fines for those who throw their butts... on the spot or gaol?

Posted by Ty on April 12, 2013 08:09


G Horne - I couldn't agree more: Laem Ka is a total disgrace and the dumped rubbish at the top of the stairs (directly opposite the photo stand) as well as in the car park is a total eyesore. Men arriving from speedboat tours see nothing wrong with dropping their cig butts THEN SPITTING on the ground right by my children. Never again. If you like filth and cruddy people go to Laem Ka, folks.

Posted by Sam W on April 12, 2013 08:36


@Simon, a commendable idea, give thais a nice pay rise, this will cure many problems, you see, increase thais pay will enviably cause a rise in all goods and services on Phuket, tourists come for a cheap holiday, with your suggestion it becomes more expensive, therefore possibly less tourists, meaning less damage, less cigarette butts, less drunken behaviour etc, get my gist. (moderated)

Posted by Phuket_IOC on April 12, 2013 09:37

Editor Comment:

Make your own interpretations of my comments, Phuket_IOC. I don't intend to waste time on you. Please correct your poor spelling in future.


Smokers do not seem to regard throwing butts on the ground as littering. When I smoked I tore off the filter and and put it in my pocket to dispose of later.

Posted by MediaWatcher on April 12, 2013 09:58


I guess Josh wanted to say that it does not make much sense when there is problem to pick on a certain nationality because of their (mis-)behaviour. No, it is much better to find solutions how the problem can be addressed. Phuket is simply not in the position (anymore) to be picky when it comes to tourism. Perhaps the Europeans who used to come to Phuket in high numbers should have been treated better.

Posted by Hans on April 12, 2013 12:36


@hans, lets not forget that long before the "new tourists" started to arrive we (westerners) WERE treated better, to think otherwise is not being totally honest, I used to love Phuket, but have moved to a different part of Thailand now. Lets also remember that we are also responsible for the way Phuket looks now, ok the new tourists seem to care a lot less about the environment, but we got the ball rolling.

Posted by Simon on April 12, 2013 13:48


Do like Hawaii. No smoking and no glass bottles on the beaches. Grassy areas are OK, but not the sand. And, then enforce it. The cops working on Sukhumvit that harass tourists for throwing invisible cigarette butts on the sidewalks may actually serve a purpose.

Posted by larry on April 12, 2013 18:34


Sadly enough here in South Africa it is also found that visitors from those 2 countries are very much the culprits when it comes to smoking in pulblic places and just throwing their butts every where. Despite our ban on smoking in public places they have a "I don't care" attitude! Come on China/Korea at least have respect for another country!

Posted by Jacques on April 15, 2013 13:35


This is problem. But the intensive fishing in the "marine park" is a bigger issue. All the sharks are long gone and most of the bigger fish. Nets and fishing lines are common. Between Island #1 and #2 there is a dumping area for the fishing boats. For me this is a bigger issue than the cig butts.

Posted by 700 Bhat for noting on April 15, 2013 19:40

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