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Video report: New demolition plan brings Surin businesses to the ground

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Video report: New demolition plan brings Surin businesses to the ground | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A number of iconic beach clubs on Phuket were crushed during the demolition of the shop houses along the Surin Beach boardwalk yesterday (story here).

“We are not ruining Surin Beach; we are returning it back to the unobstructed, beautiful beach it once was,” Phuket Vice Governor Chokdee Amornwat insisted, attempting to explain to a group of stunned tourists who claimed that the government officers were destroying the beach. “It has been a very long process to clear these buildings from the public land. We have been very careful, taking it step-by-step.”

Ahead of the demolition of the beach clubs, the Twinpalms Group held a ‘One Last Time’ beach party on April 16, just days before staff would be scampering out of the facility before it was torn down by a pair of powerful backhoes.

“It was our last chance to say ‘thank you’ to those who have enjoyed, over the years, the utopia that rose along the Surin Beach shore, as well as the incredible dedication from all our employees who made it possible,” Twinpalms Group General Manager Olivier Gibaud said.

Catch Beach Club held one last big bash before the backhoes moved in. Video: PGTV

With the opening of Catch Beach Club by Twinpalms more than a decade ago, Surin Beach became well-known as Phuket’s most exciting and fashionable beach, with Catch leading the way in bringing fabulous dining and seaside experiences to beach lovers from around the world, Twinpalms said in a statement to the press.

The closure of Catch and Bimi comes as part of a government drive to honor and celebrate the Royal Family. Surin Beach was dubbed a ‘Beach of Honor’ by Vice Governor Chokdee at the end of last year, making it the third category of beach in the island’s ever-changing new management system.

Though the beach is unique for being the only one in this category, it is managed in the exact same way as those in the ‘virgin beach’ category, with no umbrellas, beach chairs or vendors offering any services or goods.

“This third category is set aside only for Surin, as HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej and HM Queen Sirikit visited its sands in 1959,” explained V/Gov Chokdee.

“This is one of the reasons we are working so hard to ensure that Surin is a beach basking in pure natural beauty.

“It will also be the perfect location for us to hold activities or exhibitions honoring the Royal Family.”

The beach clubs were among a number of businesses swept up in the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO’s) campaign to ‘clean up’ Phuket beaches, demanding that local officials remove any and all illegal establishments on them. The campaign saw dozens of businesses receive eviction notices with a deadline date of June 2014.

Originally, only the parts of the clubs and businesses that extended to the beach side of the boardwalk on Surin Beach were demolished, with government assurance that the remaining structures would ‘most likely’ go untouched.

“The buildings were illegally modified, turning the entire area into a mess. It got to the point that it was impossible to even see the original structures,” V/Gov Chokdee said. “They started out as small businesses, but then it got completely out of control.”

The beach clubs, as well as the restaurants and other businesses on the east side of the Surin beachfront path, were occupying units originally built by the government.

Post-tsunami, the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor) established 10 buildings on public park land next to the beach, each with two units, while the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (PPAO) constructed 16 buildings paid for by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund of Japan.

The buildings were leased out to locals, who then allowed private businesses to operate at the facilities.

“The local government built the small stalls so that villagers could earn some money after the tsunami, back when Surin Beach was just a small, local beach,” said V/Gov Chokdee. “As time passed, more and more tourists came and the locals broke their contracts by leasing the shops to third parties. Suddenly, most of the buildings housed businesses backed by foreigners. It totally contradicted the intentions of the original agreement.”

Officers have not provided the Phuket Gazette with the original agreements, which allegedly state that locals were not to sub-lease the buildings.

“There were even venues selling alcohol, which is completely illegal, as the buildings are in a public park,” V/Gov Chokdee said.

“We admit that it comes down to a lack of law enforcement. However, we are working very hard on managing Phuket’s beaches,” he said, despite having already made it clear that the structures were not on the beach, but in the public park adjacent to Surin’s sands.

OrBorTor President Ma-ann Samran confessed to the Gazette last year that lease contracts to the locals had ended years ago. He pointed out that the government had not collected rent for years.

Twinpalms Group, which operates Twinpalms Phuket adjacent to Surin Beach, has continued to comply with government requests since the beginning of the saga in 2014, explained Mr Gibaud.

“Everything in life comes, lives and goes; we are very thankful to have had the opportunity to delight and be in the memory of many Catch and Bimi Beach Club guests over the years. This chapter of Catch Beach Club has drawn to a close, and everyone should be excited and look forward to the next,” he said.

The group has already gained some traction with the Palm Seafood Restaurant, Lounge and Bar on Bang Tao Beach and will be opening HQ Beach Lounge on Kamala Beach soon.

“I am extremely sad. I’ve come [here] on holiday 16 times in four years. I love Thailand. I love the people. I just think that it’s so sad that these people will have no work anymore. I feel very emotional about the people who are working at Twin Palms [Catch and Bimi] as well as the small shop owners. Where will they go?” asked Karin Mackiy, a 60-year-old Australian who witnessed the demolition.

V/Gov Chokdee assured those on Surin Beach yesterday morning that the government wasn’t going to abandon the locals.

“Impacted locals have been informed that they can register with the provincial government. We will find a place for them to earn a living,” he said. “Please be aware that the sacrifices we are making now are for the betterment of Phuket’s future and the happiness of the public.”

— Chutharat Plerin



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Phuket

Slow loris released back into Phuket forest

The Thaiger

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Slow loris released back into Phuket forest | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Department of National Parks

Officers from of the Khao Phra Thaeo Non-Hunting Area have helped in the release of a slow loris back into the wild yesterday.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation reports that the head of Khao Phra Thaeo Non-Hunting Area, Pongchart Chueahom, yesterday released the slow loris to the Khao Phra Thaeo Non-Hunting Are in Thalang.

The slow loris was found near a furniture factory in Thalang last week. It was being treated at a pet hospital before being handed over to Khun Pongchart when it was ready to be set free.

Slow loris released back into Phuket forest | News by The Thaiger Slow loris released back into Phuket forest | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Seastead structure dragged back to shore by Royal Thai Navy

The Thaiger

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Seastead structure dragged back to shore by Royal Thai Navy | The Thaiger

A floating seastead has today been towed by a naval vessel back to the Port of Phuket in Cape Panwa. Meanwhile the Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam is challenging the owners and builders of the structure to take the Thai Government and Navy to the International Court of Justice.

The Royal Thai Navy’s Third Fleet ventured out with a group of reporters on Saturday to inspect the floating seastead, the first of about 20 planned Ocean Builders for the open waters about 22km from Phuket’s Koh Racha Yai.

Nothing valuable was found on board the octagon-shaped steel and aluminium structure which was attached to a floating platform.

Two vessels were used in today’s operation. The living quarters were detached and placed on the first vessel and the second towed the floating platform to the shore for safe keeping pending legal action against its owner as well as the builder, Ocean Builders Company.

Dr. Wissanu said yesterday that Thai authorities were authorised to remove or dismantle the floating housing unit with or without the consent of its owner after finding the structure could pose a threat to Thai national security and sovereignty in accordance with Article 119 of the Criminal Code.

He said that the structure also posed an obstacle to vessels and was located not far from an oil rig.

Regarding the threat by Ocean Builders Company to sue the Thai government in the International Court of Justice for the removal, the deputy PM says he welcomes the move, noting that no government anywhere would allow a seastead settlement near their maritime territory.

Seasteader Chad Andrew Edwartowski and his Thai wife, Mrs. Nadia Summergirl, are wanted by the Thai police for questioning after Thai immigration revoked the American’s non-immigrant visa and blacklisted him.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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Phuket

Phuket taxi slams into tree in Phattalung

The Thaiger

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Phuket taxi slams into tree in Phattalung | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phattalung Rescue

Two people have sustained serious injuries after a Phuket taxi slammed into a tree in Phattalung last night.

Phattalung rescue workers were notified of the accident in Mueang Pattalung District at 7.57pm last night (Sunday).

They arrived at the scene to find the Phuket registered taxi resting in front of the big tree on the side of the road near a temple. The front of the vehicle had extensive damage following the collision.

The two people who sustained serious injuries were 58 year old Wanchai Srithong and 64 year old Jamras Srithong. They were both taken to the Phattalung Hospital.

Pattalung City Police are continuing their investigation. There has been no explanation given at this stage as to why a Phuket taxi was in Phattalung.

Phuket taxi slams into tree in Phattalung | News by The Thaiger Phuket taxi slams into tree in Phattalung | News by The Thaiger

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