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Saving Phuket park is more than battling land encroachers

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Kitiphat Taraphiban, 53, a native of Bangkok, is the new Chief of Sirinath National Park. He has a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management from Kasetsart University, and before coming to Phuket, served as chief of Mae Ping National Park in Chiang Mai for one year.

Here, he talks about his plans to clean, protect and upgrade the beach, forest and facilities of Sirinath National Park.

PHUKET: If I had my way, I’d clear the beach of every vendor in one fell swoop. People who set up businesses or chairs on the sand are essentially privatizing the beach, and it belongs to the public [Mr Kitiphat spoke before the NCPO’s raid on Phuket’s beaches began (story here)].

Unfortunately, I can’t do that, so I’ll do the next best thing: I won’t allow any new businesses to stake out space on the sand, and I’ll look for alternative land near the beach and try to move the current shops there. This is something that I have to do in concert with the municipality and the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization.

Trash is another problem. My philosophy is that nothing will happen if no one starts, so I’ll be the first to pick rubbish up from the beach and in the park. After that, I’ll ask my staff to help, then I expect local people will pitch in too.

I also would like to see hotels in the area keep in mind beach and park cleaning as a corporate social responsibility project. Everyone benefits from a lovely recreational setting, including their guests.

Another part of my job is protecting the forest here.

When I was working up north, I got so upset about how much forest was being destroyed that I bought a plot of land with my own money and planted trees on it. I probably planted 1,000 trees there, and if just one of them died, I felt bad. That’s what happens when you plant a tree – you develop feelings for it.
If every Thai person were to plant just one tree, it would go a long way toward keeping our forests safe from encroachment and illegal logging.

We need to value forests for the sources of life that they are – homes to animals, sources of water, oxygen-generators and flood preventers.

The third thing I intend to do is improve the facilities at Sirinath Park.

To start with, we need better signage. I want one sign to be a huge map of the park. Also, we need clear direction indicators and a sign on every building to tell people what it is. I want to make the information center more tourist-friendly and accessible.

Finally, we need to be able to close the park gates at 10pm for safety reasons. Right now we can’t because there’s a residential area behind the park that relies on the park road for access. We need to build a new road for them first. Once that’s done we’ll be able to control access and regulate who comes in and when.

All of these projects are in addition to my top priority in Phuket, which is preventing and correcting encroachment in the national park. However, they are each important in their own way. By keeping the forest and beach beautiful, we not only preserve something of great value for those who come after us, but we protect our own jobs in the tourism sector.

— Saran Mitrarat

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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