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How Phuket's Surin shorefront could look: an idea from the mayor last year

Time to Demolish Illegal Phuket Beach Clubs and Restaurants, Says Surin's Local Mayor

Saturday, June 7, 2014
PHUKET: The impetus from the demolition of taxi shacks and food vendors' beach stalls is being used to raise once more the question of who should make money from Phuket's shorefronts and beaches.

''It's time we settled the rights and responsibilities once and for all,'' said Cherng Talay Mayor Ma-Ann Samran tonight, warning that beach clubs and restaurants along popular Surin beach are liable to be demolished next.

He also plans to ask nearby four and five-star resorts to take in the local taxi drivers who have been dispossessed of their home bases by the demolition of the illegal shacks on public land.

''There is no reason why the resorts could not allow the taxi drivers to operate from tables in the foyers of the resorts,'' he said tonight.

His comment is not likely to win the approval of the resorts' managers, who have found little to like about local taxi drivers, their manners and their service.

What Khun Ma-Ann also had to say about the beachfront is likely to remain controversial until a meeting he says is due to take place in the Phuket Governor's office on Wednesday.

The meeting, he says, could decide the future of Surin beach. As Mayor of the Phuket district of Cherng Talay,Mayor Ma-Ann has responsibility for Surin, Bang Tao and Layan beaches.

Surin especially has become more popular day and night with tourists as beach clubs have expanded, and one restaurant now even lays claim to a sizeable chunk of the beach itself.

A path runs the length of the beach, and Mayor Ma-Ann says all structures on the seaward side of the path are illegal.

One of his predecessors as mayor once cleared all the illegal structures some years ago, and Mayor Ma-Ann is now proposing the same treatment.

The difference is that 10 years ago, all the illegal seaside structures were timber. Today many are concrete, and the revenue delivered into private hands from those illegal structures is far more significant now.

''The timing is good because we now have support for clearing up the issue of who should make money from the shorefront and the beaches,'' Mayor Ma-Ann told Phuketwan tonight.

''Wednesday's meeting with Governor Maitree Intrusud will be very interesting.''

Mayor Ma-Ann said that 30 businesses operating along the shorefront should receive letters from him on Monday asking them to show cause why the illegal structures should not be removed.

He called in a grader to the Surin shorefront today to remove the taxi shack and the stalls of 32 vendors and proposes to do the same to clear away the illegal beach clubs and restaurants.

If the beach and its shorefront are public land, then the mayor may be within his rights.

All of Phuket's beaches are controlled by local municipal councils - not by an independent Phuket Beach Authority, as Phuketwan believes they should be.

Mayor Ma-Ann says that while the seemingly permanent premises on the high side of the path are leased to locals, the leases have in many cases been transferred to expat businesspeople.

Cherng Talay municipal council and the local community derive no income from the illegal structures on the seaward side of the path, he said.

To bring another issue to a head, Mayor Ma-Ann also plans to tell Surin beach vendors - who each currently control as many as 100 umbrella loungers - that the limit from now on will be 10 umbrella loungers per person.

The issue is self-explanatory - the beaches are public, so why should individuals profit from using them? The answer should be obvious. Phuketwan's answer would be ''the public should benefit.''

In most places around the world where the beaches are treated as public property, the sands are protected and maintained because any money made from the beaches and their shorefronts is poured back into saving them for future generations, not into private hands.

The approach is different on Phuket where the argument has always been: ''If the beaches are public, then everyone should be entitled to make money on them and from them.''

As everyone who has visited any popular Phuket beach during high season knows, that's been a recipe for beach encroachment and chaos, and continuous degradation.

The beauty that once marked Phuket's extraordinary west coast beaches from Mai Khao to Nai Harn, through Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata, is now being buried by commerce.

We don't hold out hopes that the Governor will on Wednesday support the creation of an independent Phuket Beach Authority - which is what Phuket and Thailand needs if the island's magnificent beaches are to be saved for future generations.

But who knows?

With this week's beginning of the end for the Phuket taxi ''untouchables'' and an Army general in charge of the country now who opposes corruption and who seems to care about Thailand's future, anything is possible.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I suspect, as usual, the Governor will spout a lot of hot air, but do nothing. It will indeed be interesting.

Posted by jimbo34 on June 7, 2014 20:42

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All very well to suggest a 'beach authority'. Like da Vinci drawing a picture of a flying machine. How will it work? 'Here's a picture of it, what more do you want?'

Posted by Gee on June 7, 2014 20:42

Editor Comment:

No Hopers and Doomsayers are not noted for bright ideas, Gee.They're not noted for adding anything of value either, and barely intelligent enough to manage petty putdowns. In other words, Doomsayers and No Hopers are about as useful to Phuket as illegal taxi shacks.

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We heard these demolitions would happen last year. How does the mayor excuse what he allowed to happen?

Posted by The Night Mare on June 7, 2014 21:46

Editor Comment:

Ma-Ann was elected in November 2011. Why scapegoat individuals for historical events? Some Westerners seem addicted to doing that.

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The leases have in many cases been transferred to expat businesspeople. --- and so did locals not benefit from that? And who is organizing beach cleaning efforts? Is the Mayor invoiced with the Green Clubs on Phuket? The render above sure does have a lot of concrete in it....

Posted by Vfaye on June 7, 2014 21:59

Editor Comment:

The point is not who is cleaning the beaches, but who is cleaning up.
The mayor does not seem to understand that beaches are best left natural.

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I fully agree there should be a beach authority to take care of the beaches, Phuket wan has always been a supporter of that idea. It's good to see genuine concern from the media.

Posted by Amazing thailand on June 7, 2014 22:24

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While I totally support the current actions, so far all I have seen is the demolition of sala's. The same thugs are simply blocking stretches of parking with witches hats and still controlling public parking spaces, I am refering to Rawai so can't talk about anywhere else at this stage. In addition the removal of an illegal taxi sala at Naiharn beach, simply involved pushing the entire thing off the side of the carpark down into a small gully, leaving an unsightly pile of debris. As much as I hope for serious change, events to date are just a little disappointing.Still maybe hope springs eternal.

Posted by Tom on June 8, 2014 10:40

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Maybe we will see some strong appointments to back up the plan for the new Phuket and at last put an end to the near constant appeasement of groups like the tuk tuk / taxi crooks who have been calling the shots on too many issues on this island over the years

Posted by scunner on June 8, 2014 17:44

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"an Army general in charge of the country now who opposes corruption and who seems to care about Thailand's future, anything is possible." hahahaha welcome to Burma everyone

Posted by Flaneur on June 27, 2014 16:27

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An independent Phuket Beach Authority to protect the Thailand natural resources is a great idea. The practical implementation is the challenge. I am concerned that the essence of Thai culture and commerce is changing in an unplanned manner. Once you upset the balance in the economy you run the risk of social unrest. More independent authorities start and they are "governed" by independent committees. Still run by government. its a slippery slope I must warn against. The public appears to benefit initially as money is "taken" from private hands so the public could benefit. How do they benefit? The inflow of cash is stopped? Once this transition is completed, nobody benefits anymore. Local Thai businessmen have lost out and the tourists don't have the expected services offered. Progress and upliftment is a fine balance between private enterprise and government interference. The vendors, structures and commerce (including sunbeds and umbrella's) are there simply because of one reason. There is a demand for that service. IF managed correctly, all parties could benefit. However, should one revert to micromanagement "total bans" for instance, it is a clear indication that there is no long term viable plan to execute on.

Posted by Paul on October 27, 2014 12:46


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