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Article 17 enforced: DMCR to arrest tourists, guides for disturbing marine life

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Article 17 enforced: DMCR to arrest tourists, guides for disturbing marine life | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) officials are adopting tougher rules in an attempt to rescue three islands off Phuket’s coast from man-made environmental damage.

A committee assembled by members of the DMCR’s Region 6 has agreed to expand the powers of DMCR officers and to level harsher punishments for tourists and boat operators who disturb wildlife.

The new punishments, which include up to one year in prison, a 100,000-baht fine, or both, went into effect on Tuesday.

In deploying the new regulations, the committee cited Article 17 of the DMCR regulations, allowing the establishment of any regulations in an area deemed under threat of environmental degradation.

The deteriorating environmental situation of Koh Kai Nok, Kai Nai and Kai Nui, located halfway between Phuket and Koh Yao, came to public attention after pictures posted on social media showing tourists proudly displaying captured fish in plastic bags went viral.

Researchers working with the DMCR said the percentage of living coral surrounding the islands has plummeted, from 80 per cent of the coral recorded as living there in 1991, to less than 10 per cent this year.

DMCR officers were expected to begin patrolling the island with their expanded authority yesterday, May 27. DMCR Region 6 Chief Watcharin Thintalang said the current patrol implementation involves 12 officers on a rotating daily watch.

“With this new law, we will have the right to immediately arrest tourists, tour guides and boat operators for disturbing or damaging marine life, or being complicit in its destruction, said Mr Watcharin.

Mr Watcharin said the special nature of the islands, which are not technically national parks and are therefore not afforded the same level of protection, compelled the committee to expand the DMCR’s protective powers.

Previous legislation allowed DMCR officers to use the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act BE 2535 (1992), in which coral is considered a protected animal, to catch and turn over to the police anyone suspected of harming marine life.

Under that act, officers could not arrest people for harming any marine life other than coral. The punishment under that law was a fine of up to 40,000 baht, up to four years in prison, or both.

However, under Article 17, Mr Watcharin said DMCR officers may now detain tourists for harming any marine life, not just coral.

Tourists no longer immune

Mr Watcharin said that previously, officers’ willingness to detain and hand suspects over to the police was hampered by a fear of harming tourism. Those fears, he said, have since been addressed by the DMCR committee.

Mr Watcharin said he sees the impunity of boat operators and their tourists changing dramatically with the new law in effect.

“The new law will make them scared,” he said. “It requires us to take them to the police station right away, where they’ll be charged with violating the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act BE 2535 (1992) and the Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act BE 2558 (2015).

“We have the power now. Let’s see if they do get scared,” Mr Watcharin told the Phuket Gazette. “For example, if a tourist is found torturing fish, he or she will have to face the legal process,” he said.
“They will be taken to a police station and their case will have to go to court,” he said. “That means they’ll not be allowed to leave Thailand until the case is decided.”

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of the National Reform Council (NRC), said that the new regulations will have no effect on the island’s tourism industry.

“Some have asked me, ‘Will we dare to actually arrest tourists, because of the adverse effects it could have on the tourism economy?’. To this I’ve responded, ‘If tourists do something illegal, are we to just ignore it because they are tourists?’,” Mr Thon said.

“I think it only takes a few cases of arresting lawbreakers before others will get scared and never do anything like that. Instead of enjoying their time in Phuket, they’ll spend their holiday in court. No one will choose that.

“We are not closing the islands or limiting the number of tourists that can visit them, like the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Preservation has done with Tai Chai.

“Tourists can enjoy the islands as usual; they just have to obey our laws or face the consequences. Officers from the Tourism Department were involved in the committee and if it really does end up affecting tourism, we’ll address it,” he added.

On May 23, tour operators were called in for a meeting about the new rules with DMCR officials. Boat operators and tour guides said that, for the most part, they were cautiously supportive of the new measures.

“I totally agree with the new regulations, said Gembira Travel & Trading manager Sommit Plookpuet. “Yes, tourism is our livelihood, but if it destroys our marine life, it simply means we’ll have no way of making money. If there’s no more coral and no more fish, they’ll stop coming, so we plan to cooperate completely with the new regulations,” Mr Sommit said.

“While I agree that taking those who disobey the law immediately to the police station is harsh, I do think it will work.

“Honestly, the fines at places like national parks don’t really work,” he added. “No one really cares about a few hundred baht. This new rule will take those who disobey the law to the police station. That wastes their time and it affects their whole day. For sure, folks aren’t going to take those chances.”

Mr Sommit’s comments were echoed by Wichai Ruengjongwattana, a representative of Sunshine Tours Andaman.

“I think the main reason that tourists and operators end up damaging marine life is that there are no clear regulations set up,” Mr Wichai said. “Now, there are. Print the 12 regulations on posters and put them up on the three islands in English, Thai, Chinese and Russian, and let’s see if anyone dares to disobey the law.”

More regulations to come?

Mr Watcharin said the DMCR Region 6 committee sees the implementation of Article 17 as potentially useful to other islands, not just Koh Kai Nok, Kai Nai and Kai Nui.

“Sure, Article 17 could be expanded to include other at-risk islands and increase powers of enforcement for our officers, but enforcing the law is not easy,” he said. “We need officers for that. For example, when we arrest a tourist, we have to take him or her to the police station on the shore by boat. If we use this law for many islands, we will not have enough officers for every possible detention. Right now, we’re just focusing on these islands.”

“The real purpose of this regulation is not to have our officers arresting people across the whole sea, but to protect the natural environment around these islands by discouraging their degradation, Mr Watcharin said. “We never want to arrest people; we only want them to obey the law and appreciate the natural beauty of these islands.”

— Kongleaphy Keam

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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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Crime

Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room

The Thaiger

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Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Hot News

The security guard of a hotel in Nai Yang, northern Phuket, 52 year old Yingyot Butsabong, from Maha Sarakham province, was found dead yesterday (October 16) in his room. Police remain mystified how the man came to grief.

A woman named Supattra received a call from the hotel he worked at and was informed that he didn’t show up at work yesterday, so she went to his apartment to check on him.

She saw that his room was locked from the inside, so used the key she had in her possession to open the room and found Yingyot laying on the floor, face down. She thought he was just sleeping so she tried to wake him up but once she flipped him, she found that he already passed away.

She immediately called Saku police, and once on the scene, police found that there was some blood on the floor. The man had a 2 centimetre wound on his left eyebrow which was deep into his skull. There was also a wound on his chin about 1 centimetre long and about a centimetre deep. His left eye had a bruise which looked like he was attacked by a hard object.

Police report that he had been dead for around four hours in the room.

The room was not ransacked and there was no sign of fighting or theft. His body has been sent to Thalang Hospital for a detailed autopsy and to look into the cause of death.

SOURCE: Phuket Hot News

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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Bangkok

The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations

The Thaiger

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The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com

In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.

But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.

Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.

In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.

The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.

By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.

Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.

You can read the full list HERE.

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

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