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Environmentalist praises tourist’s arrest



PHUKET: A marine expert and environmentalist is calling for help in keeping tourists from taking coral and other marine life out of the country.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a member of the National Reform Council (NRC) and a marine expert and activist, expressed his concerns on social media after receiving a large number of reports by airport staff that tourists were taking coral and marine life out of the country.

“Please help us preserve our reefs,” Dr Thon said in a Facebook post. “If you find people doing this, please arrest them. If the airport staff find [marine life], stop them and report them to the fishery office for legal processing. There will be no coral left for our next generation if they keep doing this.”

“There is a law for this. Please help each other to enforce it,” he added.

Removal of coral may result in a 5,000 to 10,000 baht fine, one year in prison, or both.

Taking coral or any other kind of marine life out of Thailand is punishable by a fine of five times the estimated value of the item, 10 years imprisonment, or both.

“In addition to law enforcement, I want to ask for cooperation from airlines to help educate their passengers about this. For instance, by having a brochure or an announcement on every flight that possession of coral is illegal,” Dr Thon said.

While Dr Thon said that the airport’s help is vital in discouraging damage to marine life, he emphasized that the enforcement of existing laws is up to officers at Phuket’s beaches and reefs.

“Tougher laws are needed to discourage this kind of activity. For the national park areas, I have already suggested raising the fines,” Dr Thon said.

“Outside the national park areas, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) is working hard on this as well. The enforcement of Article 17 to protect Koh Kai is a good example.”

Expanded law enforcement under the military government’s Article 17 led to a Chinese tourist’s arrest for feeding fish at Koh Kai on Wednesday. The suspect has since been taken to a Phuket police station where he was released on 100,000 baht (approx US$ 3,000) bail, posted for the hapless visitor by the tour company operator.

“This will help scare other tourists,” Dr Thon said. “Another way to make arrests even more effective is to spread the news every time an arrest is made.”

— Kongleaphy Keam


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