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Phuket officials seize beach umbrellas from a tourist at Surin today

Officials Seize 50 Beach Umbrellas at Surin

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
PHUKET: Officials in uniform removed more than 50 tourists' bring-you-own or rented beach umbrellas from the sands at Surin this afternoon.

The dramatic action by a force of local district workers is expected to trigger a strong reaction.

Surin is generally regarded as Phuket's upmarket five-star beach and the people who use it are the ''quality'' tourists that the Tourism Authority of Thailand says the country wants to keep.

Scenes of officials removing the umbrellas from tourists, leaving them in the blazing sun, are likely to trigger anger and probably an exodus by the tourists involved.

The action at Surin followed the seizure earlier today of illicit sunbeds and more than 70 thick padded mats from a beach near the five-star Banyan Tree Resort, further north along Phuket's popular holiday coast.

The Thalang district officials are carrying out an order from the Governor of Phuket, Nisit Jansomwong, to restrict the use of umbrellas and mats to 10 percent of each of Phuket's prime tourist beaches.

This reporter had to explain what was happening in English to many of the tourists, including an Australian couple on the sand in front of the Catch Beach Club. The 30 officials in today's raid could not speak English.

Tourists questioned why officials were dressed in camouflage, looking like the military, and why many of them had guns on their hips.

Many of the tourists were from Europe. One, Hanspeter Bloch, 51, on the staff at Swissair, said he had no idea about the ''10 percent zones.''

This is despite notices having been posted along the beachfront telling tourists what they can and cannot do on the beach these days.

Some of the tourists admitted using umbrellas from outlaw renters. However, when officials asked whether anyone claimed the confiscated beach umbrellas, there were no takers.

One conversation between a tourist and an official went like this:

Tourist: ''Is my chair legal or not?''

Official: ''It's illegal now.''

There were about 20 umbrellas already in the ''10 percent zones'' and the 51 confiscated umbrellas were free-range on the beach, close to the water.

Some tourists chose to stay in the sun even after their umbrellas had been confiscated.

Another Phuketwan reporter visited Surin beach a couple of weeks ago when tourists were still permitted to bring their own umbrellas and beach chairs. The scene looked idyllic and picture-perfect.

While tourists have preferred to plant their own small umbrellas on the hard, cool sand near the sea's edge, the governor's 10 percent zones are at the back of the beach, on the hotter sand.

On the day Phuketwan visited Surin three weeks ago, there were many more byo tourists' umbrellas than could have fitted into the 10 percent zones.

Most of the world's top beaches take a casual approach to sunlovers bringing their own umbrellas, chairs and other equipment and do not seek to regiment them into zones.

Last year, the military took control in Thailand and rapidly cleared all commerce from Phuket's beaches and foreshores, knocking down most beach clubs and restaurants.

Beaches in Thailand are public but for more than 20 years, Phuket's beaches had been privatised by people renting umbrellas and sunbeds, selling food and drink and souvenirs, and encroaching on the foreshores with illegal restaurants and beach clubs.

Phuket's governor has tried to keep the beaches as clear as possible but he sought a ''10 percent zone'' compromise to give work to some of the poorer beach vendors.

The Mayor of Patong and others along the coast say that after making relatively easy money from tourists for many years, none of the beach workers are poor.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Somehow I feel that this particular local council is so much inundated with the new rules so decided to vent out feelings and bring despair to everyone.

The only question is Why this council is so angry.
And some answer could be quite trivial.

Posted by Sue on April 7, 2015 15:36

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It's a shame! I'm sure that next year many tourists will spend their holidays/money in the most friendly countries that Thailand.

Posted by Dona on April 7, 2015 15:47

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Any tourist coming back to that beach must indeed be a masochists ...

Posted by Sailor on April 7, 2015 15:55

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Was just admiring the colourful umbrellas on Surin this weekend. .. So much better then the bank adverts.

Posted by Vfaye on April 7, 2015 15:57

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It's starting... humble-pie-eating time Governor Nisit? Nah not yet. Let's enforce this on all the beaches, confiscate all umbrellas from tourists spending money in the country... and perhaps fine a few for good measure. Then let's watch as officials blame to global economy for the falling tourism arrivals.

#easytopredict #fixitnowbeforearealmess

Posted by Duncan on April 7, 2015 15:58

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The photos shown above do not appear to be tourists BYO umbrellas, but the many umbrellas that are available from vendors that pounce on people as soon as they shut off their motorbikes. If you look, all the umbrellas were removed, leaving rubber beds that are nice and evenly spaced along the sand. Tourists don't do that...vendors do. When the umbrellas are cleared...it is just a matter of days until they start creeping back, and within a week or so, vendors are back at it like before. The only way this illegal commerce is going to stop is by letting tourists bring their own chairs and umbrellas and put them where they want, and by having local law enforcement keep the vendors away.

Posted by Ed Sanders on April 7, 2015 16:00

Editor Comment:

The problem is, as the police have told the governor, they can't tell the difference between a byo umbrella or a rented beach chair and a ''real'' byo one. So they're all banned.

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They also would have to ask tourists , "ThongLor-Sukhumvit Soi style" whether they have passports on me, and those who don't, bring them to police station.

Posted by Sue on April 7, 2015 16:02

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If the council did not do this in no time vendors would be back to take over the beaches and they would be fully covered with mats tents, chairs etc.. so many beaches in Europe have been destroyed by legal privatisation .. thumbs up Thailand for having a different approach.

Posted by Anonymous on April 7, 2015 17:03

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This is fantastic news. Natural disasters such as the SARS epidemic and the tsunami couldn't stem the tide of mass (and cheap) tourism but the Thais are really pulling out all the stops to put people off holidaying here. Sadly I think this is more likely to affect the "quality" tourists. The death toll of Chinese via unsafe transport on land and sea hasn't stopped them coming. I am hoping Phuket will soon be like it was 30 years ago, a semi-paradise, but I know that's a little optimistic.

Posted by Honesto on April 7, 2015 17:24

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The low season will be disaster, the high season will be worser than the tsunami!

Posted by Eric on April 7, 2015 17:35

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All these criminals who dare to bring their own umbrellas to the beach should be arrested and deported immediately! Who the hell do they think they are! Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Posted by shadowcat on April 7, 2015 17:58

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Whilst the way this was carried out may offend some, the message is quite correct. Beaches are not for commercial gain. I think most of us wish this amount of effort was put Into clearing the jetskis and speedboats which cause the most annoyance and pollution.

Personally I am looking forward to a nice quiet high season at Christmas and New Year. Less traffic and more space for those of us who are here. Thanks to all the officials for driving away the tourists - hopefully Phuket will return to some natural beauty in a few years - no tourists will eventually mean no more condos, no more traffic and no more concrete. Excellent.

Posted by Discover Thainess on April 7, 2015 20:19

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Madness. Well I guess it has to get much worse before it gets better

Posted by Wm on April 7, 2015 20:27

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It seems that the Governor gets more control over de officials. They do what he orders. Not many people know yet that the Governor is on a special mission! His bright minded thinking is doing things, set rules, all in order to get lesser tourists to Phuket, to stop more concrete building, restore islands nature, more green, lesser busy roads. Lesser environment pollution. Compliment for the Governor.

Posted by Kurt on April 7, 2015 21:41

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love it lived here more than a decade please get rid of beach bums go to spain if u need that i know its selfish but the island is at its best in the low season i rest my case

Posted by long term expat on April 8, 2015 00:59

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I am so glad I was called a doomsyer by the editor 3 years ago. Here is the big economic tsunami I spoke about. Watch this little island crumble into bothing.

Posted by Robin S on April 8, 2015 06:31

Editor Comment:

Is bothing something Doomsayers know all about that the rest of us don't, Robin?

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Well, for small hotel owners like myself, the only glimmer of business optimism with this total farce, is that Chinese tourists don't like to sit on the beaches in the sun.

Rice soup anyone?

Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 8, 2015 08:08

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This wont affect tourism. Nothing does. Military coup, jet ski scams, tuk tuk mafia and now this. As reported here a couple of weeks ago the number of visitors just keeps going up.

Posted by pete59 on April 8, 2015 10:19

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Question: no one can BYO umbrella and bed to the beach coz its a public land and no business to be made on public land correct? how about Bangla RD then? whats the difference ?

Posted by frog on April 8, 2015 10:55

Editor Comment:

You may bring your own umbrella to the ''10 percent zone.'' But the umbrella hirers there may not like it.

Bangla Road is not at the beach. If it was once public land, it is not any longer.

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I hope the Muang officials take the same initiative as the Thalang ones. The 10% zones at Nai Harn are now more like 60%, with vendors having set up permanent structures to house mats, umbrellas, and coolers overnight. The not-so-slow creep has begun...

Posted by concerned in karon on April 8, 2015 10:55

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And if the vendors work elsewhere and renting out umbrellas and beds in nakon si thamarat why couldn't we then bring it to any beach we want? i mean its no business on the beach correct? this is a battle governor Visit never will win.. only hurt tourism hard for a while... guess its just about loose face nowadays ....

Posted by frog on April 8, 2015 10:59

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"The problem is, as the police have told the governor, they can't tell the difference between a byo umbrella or a rented beach chair and a ''real'' byo one. So they're all banned."

As long as renting is done from private property that should not matter.

All they have to do is make sure there are no illegal renter/salesmen on the beach, and it is all sorted.

Posted by stevenl on April 8, 2015 11:31

Editor Comment:

Without the ''10 percent zones,'' the beaches could work well for sunlovers. It's a a pity that authorities are only concerned about the people who don't pay to be there.

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Now there are armed officials in camouflage stealing tourists possessions while the jet ski operators continue their scams with the protection of the officials.
This information must be displayed on all social media sites to inform potential tourists when they are planning their holidays

Posted by Paul on April 8, 2015 12:02

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I like very much what the authority is doing now
to clean out the beaches. now the beaches looks
a lot better and will atract more people in the long term, but unfortunatly looking at those pictures where soldiers have to do the job is a very bad idea, this does not fit with the view.

Posted by David Rej on April 8, 2015 13:59

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Mr Editor, There is not such thing existing as a 10% zone at Naiharn beach.
That is exactly the Rawai Obor Tor jurisdiction, making this moment again a lot of money by not caring about the 10% and make a lot of money?! But where is all that money going? The sluice between Naiharn lake and the Naiharn Pond has still no rosters. Why Naiharn is treated different from other beaches?

Posted by Kurt on April 8, 2015 14:53

Editor Comment:

The beaches are under the control of local councils and the governor has to persuade them all to follow.

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Editor I don't see the logic in this statement : " It's a a pity that authorities are only concerned about the people who don't pay to be there". It is on the contrary clear to me that instead of using the beaches for big money the governor has understood that they must be protected as a long term natural asset even if in the short term more nature could mean less money (?). Natural beaches attract tourists like myself my family, relatives and friends. If Thailand can be inspired by the management of tourist spots in New Zealand rather than on most mediterranean beaches where beach concessions have been allowed, where is the problem ?

Posted by Anonymous on April 8, 2015 15:57

Editor Comment:

If you had read PW more often, you would know we advocate natural beaches where tourists can bring their own equipment. If you don't see the logic that's your affair. The tourists are the people who pay to be there. They have not been consulted about what's happened on the beaches. Treating them like cattle is not wise.

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Okay I think I see what has happened here.
The Phuket governor has implemented Phuketwan's oftimes recommended Phuket Beach Authority and has hired a team of fatigue clad armed reserve personnel as enforcers.
By extension, with a little imagination, we could call them Phuket Beach Authority Reserve. An apt acronym might be PHUBAR.
Oh but wait, I may be mistaken but was not a similar acronym coined by the US army in WW2.

Posted by David on April 8, 2015 16:22

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! SURIN UPDATE ! - I just returned from Surin Beach, and can report that umbrellas are back all over the place (only about 5 in the 10% zone). I watched the vendors at the parking lot (that has since been reclaimed by vendors) and they were telling the tourists specific instructions as to where they should bring the chairs back. Full grown adults sneaking around with umbrellas and inflatable mats, acting like that is their career. Completely incorrigible. Also, I saw the jetski thug picking up and delivering some French speaking lunks right off the beach...telling swimmers to move out of the way. Unreal!. Lastly, The Pools Bar is now open and has officially ruined the peace and quiet at the south end of Surin... thumping bass music pervades all businesses and beach areas.

Posted by Ed Sanders on April 8, 2015 16:28

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Ed Sanders,

thanks for the update!

probably one more detail should be posted that "mat enterpreneurs" appropriate the beach by allocating to their mats--in-waiting-for-customers the very best and considerable part of the beach area, and that is not even within 10% Tourist Zoo.

For Governor's proposed scheme to work, there should be presence of Beach Controllers all the time - who will watch that nothing of described doesn't happen, but that , of course, is unattainable.

Posted by Sue on April 8, 2015 18:50

Editor Comment:

The governor's plan needs to take account of the wishes of people who bring the money - the tourists. The people who take the money are easy to find and their opinions always have self-interest at the core. A wise man would ignore them.

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I think the Ed's comment is spot on - "a wise man would ignore them". However, far from being ignored they are being listened to intently. Tells you everything you need to know .......

Posted by Discover Thainess on April 8, 2015 20:48

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I stay with my wife in TRhailand more of 30 times. I'm administrator of Asia in the biggest voyager spanish forum. If we no have a shadow to stay in the beach we don't go to Thailand. We love Thailand but we are thinking about to go to malaisian beaches where there are no problems about this

Posted by Antonio on April 9, 2015 05:24

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On an average stay in Thailand I will spend over 150,000B, but perhaps its time to find other countries to visit who are more welcoming and won't hassle you.

Posted by Traveler on April 13, 2015 21:39

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Will they ever never learn,
The Thai officials. During my 9 years in this country, I daily (!) read about stupid behaviors from top to bottom of this laughing and smiling people.

Posted by cw on April 13, 2015 23:30

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Traveler

it you spend 150,000THB within appr. a month just on yourself , then you are on par with an average visiotor. If that is for longer period or for more than one person, then it well may be below what average tourists spends.

5,000USD in general is not a big amount for holidays nowadays : if that is total travel bdg for a trip, it will buy Eco class flights for 2 from Europe to Carribean and one week stay in semi-luxurious hotel + all expenses

Posted by Sue on April 14, 2015 00:57

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I watched yesterday as 9 top athletes arrived on Phuket. They had breakfast and then told their organiser they would head to the beach and relax on the loungers. He said they cannot do that any more, they chief guy phoned the hotel and said we check out now. They were supposed to be here for six months training. How's that going to go down overseas phukey?

Posted by Annon person on April 14, 2015 08:01

Editor Comment:

please give us details so we can verify your claim, anon person.

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The umbrellas are back as of today 15th. I was at Surin and plenty umbrella laaaa

Posted by geoff on April 15, 2015 22:28


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