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Phuket seawalkers deny destroying corals

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Phuket seawalkers deny destroying corals | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: About 200 square meters of coral have been damaged off Khai Nai island in Phang Nga, say local marine officials, in order to create a pathway for tourists to walk on the sea floor.

The manager of the seawalking company at the site, however, has defended his business, telling the Phuket Gazette it is environmentally friendly and had not damaged any coral.

Seawalking – walking on the sea floor while wearing a helmet supplied with oxygen from a boat above – was banned in local areas from 2007 until the law forbidding it lapsed last year.

Phuket marine officials, after learning of the damaged coral from locals, dived at the site on the east side of Khai Nai island on March 22. The group included staff from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) and the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC).

“We found that over 200 square meters of medium-quality corals had been destroyed,” said Dr Nalinee Thongtam, senior marine specialist at the PMBC.

“Coral reef had been cut to create a flat walkway,” she said.

Dr Nalinee photographed a metal railing set in the pathway for tourists to hold on to at the now-cleared site.

The cut coral was piled on top of living coral, protected sea clams had been relocated, and the support boat was anchored by rope to coral, said Dr Nalinee, who has detailed illustrations of the site.

“A total area of about 300 square meters of coral was affected, and at least two laws were broken,” she said.

It is illegal to destroy coral and the metal bar and roped coral contravene marine regulations that do not allow fishing areas to be altered, she said.

Dr Nalinee and her colleagues reported the damage to police at Koh Yao Noi island, but were told the police could not take action unless they witnessed the destruction in progress.

About 10 days later, on April 3, Dr Nalinee sent one of her staff to check on the coral. He reported back that it was starting to die, and took photographs of seawalking in progress.

“Some of the damaged coral still has the potential to grow back again with the right treatment,” Dr Nalinee said.

“It is now very important for all governmental organizations to cooperate and fix the damage,” she added.

Dr Nalinee told the Gazette that the case has been reported to her superiors at the PMBC, to the DMCR, to the Phuket Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment, and to the governors of both Phuket and Phang Nga.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Inspector-General has reported the issue to the Chief Executive of that Ministry.

A beleaguered Somporn Teerin, the manager of J&J Marine, the seawalking company at the site, told the Gazette he had received complaints from all sides and asked for the chance to explain himself.

“‘Eco-tourism’ is what we call our seawalking package,” he said.

“No coral was destroyed. The coral that we removed had been dead for three or four years years already. The walkway where we put the metal bars is a natural coral-free water channel,” he said.

Mr Somporn took exception to the claim that 200 square meters of coral had been disrupted.

“The metal bar is only one inch thick and six meters long, so it is irrational to claim that we are the reason the 200 square meters of coral has been destroyed,” he said.

As for the boat being anchored by rope to coral, Mr Somporn said he was told by “experts” that this was safe for coral.

“Corals around the island are being destroyed by divers and anchors from boats. I consulted with specialists who told me that wrapping ropes underneath coral is safe for them,” he said.

Mr Somporn also said he had consulted with local leaders before starting his business.

“This [business] will be beneficial for the locals as well; we will be providing employment for them,” he said.

Mr Somporn said that he is expecting to start the first seawalking tour this week after documents filed with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment have been completed.

When asked by the Gazette about the seawalking already in progress witnessed by Dr Nalinee’s officer, Mr Somporn said he wasn’t sure what was going on. “It must have been a safety drill,” he said.

Press were invited to visit the seawalking site on March 29, along with Dr Korn Sirinam, Parliament’s Adviser to the Committee of Land, Forest and Law Enforcement.

At that time, Mr Somporn said that sea animals would not be interfered with or harmed because experts would set up environmental safety standards and tourists would have to agree to abide by them.

Dr Korn said, “We went seawalking for 30 minutes, and I saw that no harm had been done to the sea ecosystem because the area is small, approximately 10 square meters. There is also a sand walkway for tourists to walk along and observe corals and sea animals,” he said.

“I confirm that seawalking should have no impact on the underwater ecosystem, but I also suggest that the agencies should be strict with the rules and take care of potential long-term consequences. They have to follow legal regulations in every step they take,” he concluded.

Additional reporting by Kritsada Mueanhawong.

— Namsai Wongsaeree

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Thailand

UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns today over if Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions. While Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension.”

The Thaiger also contacted a visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any announcement regarding Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. On the other hand, Phuket immigration deputy chief Nareuwat Putthawiro told Phuket News that Covid-19 tests will not be required for visa extensions or work permit applications.

“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of Covid-19… So they do not have to worry about it. Everything is still the same.”

Medical exams are required for most work permit applicants. The exams include a brief screening and a blood test for syphilis. A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements for work permit applicants. On the other hand, Phuket immigration says they do not require Covid-19 tests for work permit applicants.

“We have not received any notices about Covid-19 requirements for processing applications to renew visas. If we do receive any such orders, we will let the public know.”

SOURCES: Phuket News| Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results

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Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

People arriving Phuket from the “highest risk” areas are required to take a swab test by the staff at emergency operation centres (EOC) or show the test result document endorsed by the EOC staff made within 72 hours of their arrival. The revised order is effective from now until January 31, according to the Phuket Governor.

Those people who are on a brief business trip to Phuket need to show certificates from their employers describing the reason and necessity of their trips. If they want to leave their accommodations, they have to make a request to the EOC and clearly explain the reason as well as the time and destination. Visitors are also asked to avoid going to the community areas to avoid crowded gatherings.

It is noted that the revised order by the governor has not been officially promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. However, all visitors are still asked to register online via the Mor Chana contact tracing application and via www.gophuget.com according to the order re-issued on Friday.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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