Phuket: Tourists fight with police over new umbrella law

Phuket –  The conflict of interests and control over Phuket beaches escalated further yesterday afternoon at Surin Beach after cushions and umbrellas being utilized by tourists were forcefully removed from the sand, only to be re-allowed later by Navy servicemen.

A tourist argues with an official about whether it’s okay to use an umbrella on the beach.

Beach tourists clashed with Thai authorities this afternoon when a task force of about 20, comprising officials from the OrBorTor Cherng Talay, police and army, raided the beach, forcefully removing umbrellas and mobile loungers being utilized by tourists.

The officials removed cushions, umbrellas, sunbeds and chairs, leaving only mats and cloths on the sand.

Several tourists were upset and disputed the action of officials, but to no avail.

According to eyewitnesses, some tourists stubornly refused requests to take down their umbrellas and some reportedly had expressed their anger by throwing their umbrella on the beach in front of officials.

Some beach operators reportedly were cheering on the tourists. Thankfully, the situation did not get violent. 

The task force finally left by about 2pm. Not long after, however, about five servicemen from the Royal Thai Navy Region 3 command arrived to the scene and attempted to pacify beach operators and tourists.

The Navy told the tourists that they can bring their own umbrellas to use on the beach, but that no vendors were allowed to rent out or sell umbrellas and loungers “in the area of the beach”.

Tourists were content, albeit confused.

The incident follows a related meeting today at 11am, chaired Maan Samran,Cherng Talay OrBorTor president and Marine Office Chief,Phuripat Teerakulpisut as well as Col Paworn Pornphromma, who had visited and talked to local residents and beach operators near Patcharee Seafood on Surin Beach.

The discussion had confirmed that OrBorTor Cherng Talay has not yet given the green light to permit beach service commerce for sunbeds, umbrellas as well as food and beverage operators.

Officials explained to beach operators clearly that they cannot conduct business on or at the beach.

However, officials have given the green light to massage and food/beverage vendors to operate in a specifically designated area, just above the beach in the area just atop of the sea wall, stretching the length of the beach.

Sunbeds and umbrellas are still not permitted in this designated area, and the local government is still discussing whether or not to allow said businesses to operate there.

Chay Singkaew, Surin Beach sunbeds operator commented: “We suffer because we haven’t been able to work on the beach for the last four months. We have no money to pay for home mortgages or car payments. Yes or No is the answer we want to hear. We do not want to see the city to allow for other investors to come in and take over our jobs.”

Maan Saran said that OrBorTor has been discussing with the Marine Office, army and police to find a solution.

 “We follow the law in every step we take and beach operators understand that no sunbeds, umbrellas, food or drink sellers [are allowed] on the beach but that cloths or mats are still allowed.

 However, he said that the OrBorTor is working to find a suitable area for beach operator to resume their business.

 “Laguna is one place that allow beach operators to do business. The beach vendors are under OrBorTor supervision and more than 80 vendors are under consideration as to whether or not [we will] let them on the beach.

 “There are many factors … Some think beach vendors disturb tourists, also the types of goods being sold on the beaches should be monitored,” he said. Source: thephuketnews