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Special Report: Phuket’s billion-baht beach ‘scandal’ never kept a secret

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Special Report: Phuket’s billion-baht beach ‘scandal’ never kept a secret | Thaiger

Special Report

PHUKET: A senior official at Kata-Karon Municipality this week claimed that permits issued to allow local residents to work as beach vendors were introduced at the behest of a Provincial Hall standing committee some 20 years ago.

The issue raised a storm of controversy last week when Paween Pongsirin, Region 8 Police Deputy Commander at the time (story here), publicly unveiled contracts between vendors and beachfront resorts totalling billions of baht (story here).

Speaking exclusively to the Phuket Gazette, Weerasak Anekwongsawat said that the beach-allocation system was in use long before he arrived to take up the post of chief administrative officer (palad) at Karon Municipality six years ago.

“To my knowledge, the permits were introduced about 20 years ago through an agreement between locals and the government,” he said.

“They were approved by a provincial standing committee to organize the beaches so they would be kept neat and tidy, and look good for tourists. The committee was led by the governor, the district chief and the Karon mayor at that time.”

Mr Weerasak explained that the municipality kept a public register of all the people who were allocated sections of beach on which they could work.

“We didn’t issue permits as standard procedure, but we would issue signed letters affirming the right of any person on the register,” he said.

“Locals were called in to register their names, then the beach areas were divided among them. The right of operating a section of the beach was allowed to be transferred to their children or heirs, but the operators were not allowed to ‘rent out’ the section of the beach to a third party.

“Other than that, I do not really know many more details. I took the position [of palad] in 2008. By that time, the vendors had formed a group to look after each other and manage their areas on their own.”

Mr Weerasak, who already faces charges for his alleged role in supporting the local taxi mafia (story here), said that the vendors did not pay money to the municipality.

“The project was to provide jobs for local people. They did not have to pay any money to the municipality, but now it has become a billion-baht business,” he said.

“It has gone too far, and they [vendors] now claim that they had our permission.”

— Chutharat Plerin

 

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