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Day trippers enjoy the Similans, with Russians and Chinese increasing

Mass Rescue Proves Similans Tourism Now a Numbers Scam

Thursday, May 2, 2013
PHUKET: Allegations of corruption at the Similan islands National Park continue to swirl after last month's evacuation of tourists proved the park has an excessive number of visitors.

It's common knowledge in the diving and snorkelling industry that trippers to the Similans exceed the maximum number of 250 a day.

Captain Thammawat Malaisukkarin, of the Naval Civil Affairs Directorate, has confirmed that 455 passengers and crew were rescued by the patrol ship Pattani from the Similans island of Koh Tachai in a wild storm on April 17.

Although numbers of tourists to the Phuket region continue to increase, the income from the Similans has only risen from 19.7 million baht in 2009 to 20.7 million baht in 2012.

The limit of 250 visitors a day to the Similans is imposed to protect Thailand's environmental marine gem from mass tourism.

Yet the natural reefs and beaches are now alleged to have been turned into a fiddle where rangers and operators pocket the profit from extra boats.

The claims came into focus again in 2012 - and the mass rescue last month proves that more visitors are going to the Similans, and that their park fees (500 baht for expat adults, 300 baht for children, 100 baht for Thais) are not entering government coffers.

Corruption claims were anticipated to be a feature of a summit of Natural Resources and Environment chiefs from key southern provinces at the Metropole Hotel in Phuket City today.

The media was excluded from the meeting - Thailand is slipping back in terms of press freedoms, an international report found this week.

But it's understood that a claim would be raised that rangers were charging 20 baht for admission to ''free'' public toilets in one popular national park and pocketing the cash.

The toilet fiddle would be small change compared to the profits to be made by a Similans scam. Investigators would not have to go far to check it out - they could do what the Navy did and count the people in the park at any one time.

Time is running out, though, for that kind of action. The Similans park is due to shut down on May 15 for its annual environmental respite until November.

There are other claims, though, that boats visit the Similans illegally out of season, with the blessing of rangers.

Comments

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Another shining example of corruption (allegedly) running wild for short term gains at the expense of things/places of far far greater importance. The more I witness or read these stories the more I firmly believe that it's far too late now for the honest officials and government departments to clean up this mountain of corruption infesting so much of Thailand. I'm fully aware that most countries in Asia have similar issues, but let's just focus on where we are for now, and at what stage do we see actual reform, actual improvement, actual impact of positive change that can halt this downward plunge into the abyss? If only common sense would prevail with Thai's that without such spectacular natural attractions tourists will not return, that continuing to blead the unfortunate visitors day in day out will see them, yes you guessed it, not return! I am repeatedly hearing these views from new visitors and repeat visitors for too long now, and unfortunately, the reasons are many and negative over their Phuket experiences recently

Posted by Anonymous on May 2, 2013 20:33

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From Phangnga Bay to Langkawi, Thai "rangers" or officials charge rates to foreign yachts for anchoring rights while offer no services at all.

These rates are charged even if the yachts do not use the questionable gov't moorings.

Is it possible to determine which areas actually require gov't fees to be paid and what the official fees are?

Posted by Anonymous on May 2, 2013 21:07

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Why are they so surprised? This must have been known long since. When I worked in the business some years ago there were already then 15 speed boats operating at Similan and about the same number of diving vessels. In average about 600 persons each day out there, probably many more. Let's say we had 120 good days in the season, that means 72,000 persons. Average fee 300 Bath gives 21,6 Million Bath. This is 4-5 years ago...

Posted by OJ on May 2, 2013 21:32

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During this high season we had about 30-40 speedboats on daily basis at Similan Islands (Similan & Koh Tachai), each speedboat with about 40-50 customers...so about 1,500 foreigners per day.
Plus about 20 liveaboard vessels with some large dive cattle-boats with day-divers so we may say about 2,000 people per day at 400 Baht per day and in extra the 200 Baht per diver per day.
I had the privilege to be invited at by the DNP and we were less than 5 dive operators present at the meeting.
What I understood is the government wants to clean the tourism industry of the too many undesirable investors, especially amongst foreigners as they are too many tourists in Marine National Parks in the Andaman Sea.
The owner of a large hotel group complained about to many foreigners in the tourism industry did not pay so many taxes in Thailand compared to the volume of tourists they were handling per day.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 2, 2013 22:18

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Corruption in Thailand officials receiving secret commissions
shock and horror who could imagine such goings on.

Posted by slickmelb on May 3, 2013 04:22

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Anyone knows where this rule about 250 people come from? And where it can be found?

Posted by Tom on May 3, 2013 09:15

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@Tom "Anyone knows where this rule about 250 people come from? And where it can be found?"
Those who provide expertise are Dr in Marine Biology from Thai Universities and for them, tourists and divers destroy all coral reefs in Thailand and they will never blame fishermen for poaching in Marine National parks.
Those official consultants are responsible to close access to snorkeling and diving at Similan Islands (Koh Huyong, Koh Payan, Koh Payang and Fantasy Reef).

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 3, 2013 10:49

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"Anyone knows where this rule about 250 people come from? And where it can be found?"
That idea was floated about 6? years ago. AFAIK it was never implemented.

Posted by stevenl on May 3, 2013 11:05

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@Tom & @stevenl
here is the official link from the DNP (Department of National Parks to "Control Measures for Tourism Entrepreneurs in Marine National Parks - SCUBA Diving and Related Activities in Marine National Parks.
English version: http://www.dnp.go.th/Rules/seatrade_en.pdf
Thai version: http://www.dnp.go.th/Rules/seatrade_th.pdf

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 3, 2013 11:54

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I am also of the belief that with regards to the rules in the Similan national park that it is against the rules to carry out night dives, and to Carry out any teaching. This was put inplace to protect the park. Is this also a "rule"?

Posted by GazB on May 3, 2013 12:43

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I've said it before and been called naive, so here we go again. The Thais need to be paid more, the money is obviously available, lets think about a ranger, what's his daily wage, 2 beers on bangla perhaps? Here in Chai Nat (110km NW of BKK) it's mostly rural with a few factories, obviously working people don't have the same living costs, but nobody would work for the salarys being offered on Phuket. So what's the deal then? Is it low wage with the opportunity to scam tourists, looks that way to me. So who's going to be the first to post naive this time?

Posted by Simon on May 3, 2013 13:50

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as of current figures on there own website
No. visitors of Mu Ko Similan National Park. : 170,019
Last Update : 24 Apr 2013

Posted by Anonymous on May 3, 2013 14:16

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To Whistle-Blower:

Thanks for the link :-) Appreciate any help trying to find the current valid rules. The link you posted is more like a work paper based on a "meeting held in Phuket on 26-27 November,
2007". It would be nice if this was the actual rules and honored by all but it doesn't look like a "law" more like a workbook of suggestions...

Thanks anyways - the closest I have come so far :-)

Posted by Tom on May 3, 2013 17:07

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@ Tom
We need desesperaly a change or a full reinforcement in DNP regulations such as:
- DNP regulations should be strictly reinforced and not flouted on daily basis by greedy businesspeople at the expenses of those following DNP regulations or other way, DNP Regulations and DNP rules would be useless.
- DNP regulations should be properly planned in order to give enough time to entrepreneurs to adjust their businesses or DNP will have too many complaints and will have to scrap or postpone new reinforcements or regulations as we saw with the entree park fees increase last year.
- Note that in case of a sunken boat or death of injured divers, Medias and forums in Thailand and abroad will be speaking loudly and negatively about the negligence from DNP to supervise tourism activities within national parks especially when they are officially closed.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 3, 2013 18:35

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To Whistle-Blower:

I couldn't agree more and thats why Im looking for the current rules and want to see if I can push these rules to be honored by the dive industry that I am a part of myself. Its apparently just not easy to find current valid rules :-) Still working on it with a few friends but I think we need help from a Thai person to talk to DNP and see if they have a current rule book. I emailed them yesterday but in English and still awaiting reply :-)

ANY help to get current rules and regulations would be highly appreciated :-)

Tom

Posted by Tom on May 4, 2013 13:58

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as an instructor who works in similans, its nothing new...

Posted by Bubba on November 25, 2013 16:13

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Nobody here respect any law and what is worste is that the money collected to preserve the environment, absurdly go into the pockets of the people who doesn't care about it!!! This is the digrace of Phuket and the reason why soon all marine life will be destroyed. Whrre can't arrive the fishermans or the dive industry, will be the target of the terrific increasing of the polluted wastewaters...

Posted by dave on November 25, 2013 20:51

Editor Comment:

It's difficult to tell sometimes which industry is more concerned about money.


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