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Special Report: Phi Phi cries for help

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Phi Phi cries for help | The Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: Officials are pleading for help in tackling the array of environmental disasters that plague the tourist-popular Phi Phi archipelago – especially its largest island, Phi Phi Don.

Considering the more than 1,000 visitors that arrive on the island daily – a number that does not include the uncounted number of tourists who arrive directly on the beaches by way of the hundreds of speedboats and yachts – it becomes clear that Phi Phi is under an enormous amount of unsustainable pressure, Ao Nang Administration Organization (OrBorTor) President Pankum Kittithonkun told the Phuket Gazette.

RUBBISH

Phi Phi produces an average of 25 tonnes of trash a day. That numbers jumps to about 40 tonnes during the high season, Mr Pankum explained.

The abundance of rubbish is to the point that even Wikitravel makes mention of it: “Unfortunately, there is still plenty of rubbish on the beaches.”

“Tourists must help us create and maintain a pristine island environment. There is too much rubbish for us to manage – making it necessary for tourists to help out by taking their trash off the island when they leave,” Mr Pankum said last week.

“I have already asked tour operators to educate their guests, but nothing changes. Tourists continue to leave their trash on the island.”

All tourists arriving on the island pay a 20-baht fee at Ton Sai Pier to assist in “keeping Koh Phi Phi clean”, according to a posted sign. Though there is often skepticism about where the money goes due to the amount of rubbish found scattered across the island, Mr Pankum confirmed that the entire fee is used for waste management.

“As soon as we arrive on the island, we have to pay a 20-baht entrance fee. Nevertheless, the streets and the beaches are extremely dirty. There is not even one public bin anywhere in the center of town!” a concerned person, who declined to be named, wrote to the Gazette.

“Moreover, some hotels do not hesitate to dump their own trash in areas where [trash] collection is not done, creating… mounds of decomposing bags under the sun.”

The fee at Ton Sai Pier was introduced in December 2012. A year later, the Ao Nang OrBorTor had collected 8 million baht.

“We collect up to 20,000 baht a day from tourists at the pier. The money is then used to pay a private company to haul the rubbish from the island to the mainland in Krabi to be disposed of,” Mr Pankum said.

The boat takes about 25 tonnes of trash from the island daily, weather permitting. Ao Nang OrBorTor pays 600,000 baht per month for the service. During the high season, an Ao Nang OrBorTor boat is used to help transport the overflow of rubbish.

“The OrBorTor has collected 6mn baht so far this year, but we’ve paid more than 16mn baht for waste management for Phi Phi and Ao Nang,” Mr Pankum said. “There is a problem with tour speedboat operators dropping tourists off on the beach instead of bringing them to the pier to pay the 20 baht fee.”
The largest producers of rubbish, however, are not the tourists, they are the businesses on the
island – especially hotels and restaurants.

To encourage businesses to be more proactive in recycling and minimizing the amount of waste they produce, the Ao Nang OrBorTor is considering implementing special rates for trash collection at hotels and restaurants.

“We are thinking of collecting fees based on the weight of the trash we have to remove from the island for them. The more they produce, the more they will pay,” Mr Pankum said.

WASTEWATER

In Ao Nang, on mainland Krabi, there is a wastewater treatment plant that is able to handle about 3,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day – not nearly enough, according to Mr Pankum.

However, the situation on Phi Phi Don is even worse, he noted.

“We have no wastewater management plant there. Our only hope is that hotels, restaurants and other businesses act responsibly – but I have no faith in them,” Mr Pankum told the Gazette.

“They of course have to treat their own wastewater before releasing it into the sea, but they very well could just be turning the devices on before officers arrive to check them.”

Mr Pankum has denied that brown water recently seen in Loh Dahlum Bay, the second main bay on Phi Phi Don, was wastewater.

“The brown water seen during the [southwest] monsoon season is only a plankton bloom,” Mr Pankum said.

The off-brown water visible in photos of Loh Dahlum Bay is similar to that seen at Patong Beach in August last year (story here).

Dr Pornsri Suthanaruk, director of the Phuket Environmental Office Region 15, explained at the time that excessive amounts of nutrients in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus likely fed plankton growth in the bay, which was further catalyzed by days of bright sunshine.

Mr Pankum was unable to confirm the origins of the nutrients in Loh Dahlum Bay. However, he noted that officers from the Krabi Environmental Office had come to check the water quality about four months ago, and that everything tested had fallen within acceptable levels.

“If you see any brown water, please let me know and I’ll call the officer so they can check the water quality again,” Mr Pankum said.

A budget of 371mn baht was requested in 2012 by the Ao Nang OrBorTor for a wastewater plant on Phi Phi Don. However, the local government was not able to set aside the necessary 37.1mn baht from its own budget for the project to be approved.

“I couldn’t provide the money necessary from our side, so the project failed,” admitted Mr Pankum.

“All I can do at this point is have officers regularly check on restaurants and hotels to ensure that they are treating their wastewater.”

STRUGGLING FOR SOLUTIONS

“Year after year, Phi Phi Island is losing its beauty. Without more responsible and strict management of the environment, Thailand will lose one of its most beautiful places,” the concerned visitor wrote to the Gazette.

After being notified of the current situation, Capt Bancha Daowsook, commander of the Royal Thai Marine Corps based in Krabi, vowed to help the Ao Nang OrBorTor.

“I took up my position on October 1. I have yet to receive any complaints about Phi Phi being dirty. However, I will look into it, and if the Ao Nang OrBorTor needs any help, I will support them,” said Capt Bancha.

The fundamental issue is that the budget allocated for Ao Nang and Phi Phi is based on its registered population, not on the number of people it plays host to every year, Mr Pankum said.

Ao Nang and Phi Phi share the same budget, which is managed by the Ao Nang OrBorTor.

“Phi Phi’s slice of the budget is based on a few thousand people, but the island takes care of the whole world,” Mr Pankum said.

“I don’t know what to do. People from everywhere come to our home, but some of them don’t care what condition they leave it in. The 20 baht per person really isn’t enough for us to manage the waste of the entire island.

“I can only do my best to ensure the island suffers as little as possible and survives as long as possible.”

— Chutharat Plerin


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Phuket

Mai Khao’s ‘West Sands’ CEO being quizzed by police following last week’s death on Thepkasattri Road

The Thaiger

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Mai Khao’s ‘West Sands’ CEO being quizzed by police following last week’s death on Thepkasattri Road | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Facebook.com – Paul John Mercer

The British CEO of a luxury hotel along Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, is going to be quizzed by police in Phuket after running over and killing a roadside scavenger in his luxury Mercedes last week.

Original report about the Wednesday morning incident HERE.

The British expat is being investigated by Thai police after his Mercedes-Benz ploughed into the rubbish collector, killing the man instantly and scattering his body over the road.

Paul John Mercer, CEO of CCD Thailand, an international developer of luxury hotels, allegedly struck the unidentified man as he was pushing his rubbish cart along Thepkasattri Road in Phuket early Wednesday morning. His body was dragged 40 metres along the road, according to the police report. At this stage Police have not been able to identify the deceased man.

Police and rescue workers found the man’s body scattered over the road. The black Mercedes sustained significant damage from the crash on its right side front and windscreen.

Mail Online reports the the 33 year old driver, from Salford near Manchester, was immediately sent to a nearby hospital for injuries to his eyes caused by the impact to the windscreen.

Police had been barred from seeing or questioning Mr Mercer until his condition improved. Police requested tests for the man’s blood alcohol level.

If found guilty of driving over the alcohol limit, Mr Mercer could be charged with reckless driving causing death, and would be sent to a local court for trial. A guilty verdict could send him to a Thai prison along with a hefty fine. Plus, as normal in Thai culture, he would be required to pay compensation to the deceased man’s family.

But Police Captain Worawut Sensop, deputy investigation chief at Thalang police station, told MailOnline “We have not been contacted by a family member or a relative to claim the body.”

“If no relative comes forward to claim relationship with the victim, Mr Mercer could get away with not having to pay any compensation.”

Mr Mercer went into business with former Tesco CEO, Sir Terry Leahy, to buy the 48 acre stretch of land along Mai Khao Beach, Phuket, with 426 rooms, now known as Grand West Sands.

Mai Khao's 'West Sands' CEO being quizzed by police following last week's death on Thepkasattri Road | News by The Thaiger Mai Khao's 'West Sands' CEO being quizzed by police following last week's death on Thepkasattri Road | News by The Thaiger Mai Khao's 'West Sands' CEO being quizzed by police following last week's death on Thepkasattri Road | News by The Thaiger Mai Khao's 'West Sands' CEO being quizzed by police following last week's death on Thepkasattri Road | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Mail Online

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Phuket

Man kills himself outside his home in Thalang

The Thaiger

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Man kills himself outside his home in Thalang | The Thaiger

A Thai man has shot himself at a house in Thalang today.

When Police and rescue workers arrived at the Suppamas housing estate in Paklok about noon, they discovered the body of 66 year old Somnueak Chanapan, a former staff member of the Khao Phra Thaew Non Hunting Area, on a chair in front of the house. Bullet wounds were found on both his right and left temple.

A .38 handgun was found next to his body. A cartridge was found under the chair. His body was taken to Thalang Hospital.

Mr Somnueak’s wife told police that Mr Somnueak was  a former staff member of Khao Phra Thaew Non Hunting Area in Thalang. She said that he had some personal health issues but he had been given good care from his family.

His wife and his son were inside the house at the time of the incident. They thought that Mr Somnueak was cleaning the gun. After she heard the shot she ran into the room and found that he was dead.

At this state police believe that Mr Somnueak was stressed over his personal health problems but are continuing their investigations.

Man kills himself outside his home in Thalang | News by The Thaiger

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Phang Nga

Tour operators boycott visits to Similan and Surin islands to protest new restrictions

The Thaiger

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Tour operators boycott visits to Similan and Surin islands to protest new restrictions | The Thaiger

The tour operators have had enough of the winding back of tour boat operations and are now resorting to boycotting and ‘disrupting’ the tours in order to get their protests heard.

About 50 tour operators in Phuket and Phang nga say they’re suspending boat trips to Similan-Surin islands in the Andaman sea (off the coast of Phang-Nga) today and tomorrow to protest against the decision of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation to limit the number of visitors to the islands to 3,850 a day. The number also includes 525 scuba divers.

Thai PBS reports that the limitation of visitors comes into force today after the two main islands re-opened to tourists after several months of closure during the monsoon season.

Besides the limitation of visitors, overnight stay-overs are not permitted.

Tour operators met yesterday in Ban Tap Lamu in Thai Muang district of Phang nga to discuss the new restrictions which they say they oppose.

They say their objections are because the restrictions would affect their business and that they’ve already accepted advance bookings to tour the islands before the department issued its new restrictions.

They say they will take their tourists to other tourist attractions Monday and Tuesday this week while awaiting response from the department.

Tour operators have been notified of the reopening of the two islands for visitors and the restrictions and to get themselves prepared with their vessels being properly checked to ensure their sea worthiness and equipped with enough life vests for their passengers.

The PM’s Office Minister Kobsak Putrakul, who was in Phang nga over the weekend, received the tour operators’ complaint and promised to bring it to the attention of the department chief.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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