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Dive operators get court reprieve

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Administrative Court in Nakhon Sri Thammarat has ruled the new regulations affecting Phuket dive operators suspended indefinitely, pending the results of a court case challenging their legality.

News of the suspension came from Aekachai Soonthorn, who has been appointed defense attorney for the province in the case. Aekachai is also Secretary to the Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer (Palad), Nivit Aroonrat, who has been central to the new regulations’ implementation.

The case was lodged against the province, which brought the new regulations into effect October 1, by members of the Thai Diving Association (TDA).

TDA representatives told the court on October 19 that the strict new rules infringe on their privacy rights and are very difficult to comply with, and requested that the court temporarily suspend the regulations until the court rules in the case.

The suspension was granted by court order on October 30. The court cited in its decision concerns that former Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura may have overstepped his authority by authorizing the regulations.

The court accepted that some procedures required under the regulations, including the submission of business information, appear incompatible with the stated aim of the regulations, environmental protection.

“Although the judge understood why Phuket province issued the regulations, he said they might give too much power to the Governor. The judge said that we have many laws to use to protect the environment, so we should use existing laws rather than make new ones,” Aekachai said.

He added that he intends to appeal the suspension to the Supreme Administrative Court in Bangkok within the 30 days allowed.

The appeal has been prepared and is awaiting the signature of Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit, he said.

Gov Niran became the nominal defendant in the case with his October 31 promotion to the post of Phuket Governor.

Aekachai said the court had not yet set any dates to hear testimony in the case.

Pongsawan Sathatham, a TDA committee member also serving as its attorney in the case, told the Gazette that in the meantime TDA members are running their businesses as usual.

Palad Nivit said he was unaware of the court ruling, but said that the province would continue to appeal any court orders suspending or rescinding the regulations.

“I’d like to do thing right to preserve the country. Even if the court does not agree with the provincial announcement, we still want to perform our duties as well as possible,” he said.

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