MAI KHAO, PHUKET: Hotels and restaurants in Mai Khao in Phuket have been given one month to vacate illegally occupied beachfront land after a barrage of complaints from local residents.
Villagers complained in writing to Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop that it was becoming ever more difficult for them to access public beach land because hotels and restaurants have erected barriers and employ security guards to limit access.
A tense meeting on the issue was chaired by Gov Wichai at Phuket Provincial Hall on Thursday afternoon.
Taking part were representatives of 30 private sector groups and government agencies including Phuket Vice Governor Tri Augkaradacha, Phuket Provincial Administration Organization President Paiboon Upatising and managers from 10 local resorts.
The meeting started with a presentation by Thalang District Chief Naruenart Suphattharaphatheep outlining the extent of beach encroachment in the district.
The worst encroachment is along the seven-kilometer stretch of Bang Tao Beach in Cherng Talay, where almost 150 restaurants and shops have been set up on public land, the meeting was told.
The figures are the findings of a special survey team set up by Gov Wichai and led by Mr Naruenart to study the problem in Thalang.
Other beaches rife with encroachment are Nai Yang and Surin, each with three to five beachfront resorts and 30 or 40 restaurants and shops on public land, Mr Naruenart said. Nai Thon Beach was relatively quiet, with three hotels and just two or three restaurants encroaching.
The 11-kilometer Mai Khao Beach, including its northernmost stretch known as Haad Sai Khao (White Sand Beach), is currently home to about 10 beachfront resorts.
About half of these have encroached on public beach land by setting up rows of beach chairs exclusively for guests and limiting access to local residents, the study found.
After negotiations between hotel operators and representatives of Sirinath Marine National Park, the hotel representatives agreed to vacate all public areas and lands inside the national park boundaries within one month.
During the meeting Gov Wichai expressed interest in a plan put forward by the Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organization (Mai Khao TAO) to build a beachside promenade and ensure sufficient beach access, both for hotel guests and local residents.
Additional meetings between the TAO, local villagers and hotel operators are expected to follow soon to work out a fair solution to the problem.
— Kitima Pornmongkhonwat
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