Fury at proposal to close Phi Phi
KRABI (Gazette, Nation, AFP): Local businesspeople and officials have branded as “a big joke” a proposal that Phi Phi Don Island should be closed for two years to allow pollution in the tourism hotspot to be cleaned up. The proposal was put forward by Tourist Police Commander Pol Col Sanit Miphan, who told The Nation newspaper recently that the tiny island had become badly polluted due to a lack of facilities to cope with the explosion in tourism over the past few years. “The island should be closed for one or two years to improve basic facilities to keep it tidy,” the newspaper quoted Col Sanit as saying. He explained that poor infrastructure accompanied by a foreign tourism boom on the island had led to problems such as inappropriate waste disposal and water pollution. The lack of electricity also meant businesses had to generate their own power. Pankam Kitithorakul, Chairman of the Ao Nang Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor), which oversees the Phi Phi Islands, described the proposal as “Big Joke No 2”, a reference to another proposal, put forward in December last year by Phuket Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi, that the government should buy the island, then clean it up. He launched a furious attack on the proposal: “This is the first I’ve heard about this,” he told the Gazette. “I just want to ask the tourist police, ‘Are you sure that you are really working hard for us?'” He said he was certain that it would be impossible to close the island –that there is no law allowing the government to do so. In any case, he added, “It’s not necessary to close the island if they want to tidy it up. We can go on doing business and clean it up at the same time. “This news will only confuse the tourists. Does he [Col Sanit] want to destroy tourism in Krabi?” K. Pankam agreed, however, that water and power facilities on Phi Phi Don are not good, “but that doesn’t mean that closing the island for one or two years would make them work perfectly.” Referring to the existing water and power plants, he said, “I plan to put signs in front of them – ‘Water Treatment Plant Monument’ and ‘Incinerator Monument’ because they have never worked since they were installed by the government. Saritpong Kiewkong, Vice-President of the Krabi Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) and owner of the Phi Phi Pavilion Resort, also slammed the idea of closing the island. “It’s not the right way to solve problems. It’s like closing all the pubs because they let in people under the age of 20; the police should pay more attention to arresting the teenagers, [not closing the pubs].” He pointed out, “If the island were closed, every businessman there would be in trouble. How can [Col Sanit] guarantee that if the island is closed for one or two years, it will improve? How can he be sure that if it is closed, the garbage will disappear? “If you want to improve everything, this idea is a contradiction; you should fix things when the island is open, not when there’s no activity at all. “So many people say that they love Phi Phi Island but I don’t see anyone really living up to their responsibilities. We in the OrBorJor are keen to support every project – we are trying to push forward the 619-million-baht power plant project for the island, but the government is still silent [on funding]. “The Tourist Police should do their job properly first, before they say things like this.” Jaturong Pengnoraphit, Secretary to Somsak Thepsuthin, the minister who oversees the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), also rejected the proposal to close down Phi Phi for a year or more as completely unworkable. “It’s impossible to close down Phi Phi. I asked Col Sanit about this and he said it was merely a proposal under discussion. What we can do is to reorganize and beautify the island,” he said. However, Jaturong admitted the TAT had discussed restricting the number of tourists allowed on the island to reduce pressure on the environment.
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