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Maya Bay – let the healing begin

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By Piyaporn Wongruang – The Sunday Nation

It was around 10 in the morning. There was peace and tranquility at Maya Bay and its beach with just a few speedboats docking in front of the bay. The crystal clear deep blue turquoise sea water filled the vision of Plianprasop Khaonual, a long-time park ranger and among the first who explored the bay’s potential after the Hollywood film, the Beach, was shot here, and rocketed the bay to worldwide fame since 2000.

Within another half an hour, the crystal clear waters were dotted with an increasing number of speedboats transporting tourists to the bay. Soon the place was crowded with tourists, mostly foreigners, jumping off the boats and roaming the 3-rai (0.48-hectare) beachfront.

“It has changed a lot and degraded extensively,” said Plianprasop.

Maya Bay is the tourist magnet of Had Nopparat Tara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park. Portrayed as a remote location, the hideaway of a young backpacker Richard, starring Hollywood star Leonardo Di Caprio, Maya Bay has been trampled on by tourists non-stop for nearly 20 years. Its ecosystem has become degraded, prompting a wake-up call for concerned authorities to take a serious look at the impact of tourism there.

The National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department, which oversees national parks nationwide, eventually decided to close the bay to pave the way for rehabilitation and to start a major face-lift for tourism there.

Maya Bay - let the healing begin | News by The Thaiger

The agreement

For more than two years, Wutthisak Thongkerd, a business operator and a chairman of the two-year-old Phitak Phi Phi (Protecting Phi Phi) group, has felt the pinch of tourism’s impact on the bay and other tourist locations nearby.

The group, comprising business operators and community members of Phi Phi island, decided to discuss and gather views on the issue. In consultation with the park advisory committee, of which Wutthisak is also a member, the group decided to forward their consensus decision to close the bay to the park and the department for consideration.

In consultation with the marine resources and national parks advisory committee, the National Parks Department decided to issue an order to close the bay from June 1 to September 30 to make way for rehabilitation and a face-lift for tourism that is expected to serve as a model for other marine parks faced with a similar burden.

“The bay needs some rest,” said Wutthisak. “Tourism brings positive things, but also negative ones. If we don’t limit the activity, it would cause damage beyond repair. Our income would be affected a little bit, but we rather wish to have income generated in the long term, not ruined for ever.”

Tourism waves

Being probably Thailand’s most popular marine spot, Maya receives as many as 4,000 tourists and around 200 boats a day, and most ecologists agree those numbers are beyond the bay’s capacity to accommodate.

This year, it is expected that around 5 million tourists would visit Maya and the park, as well as the other two marine parks nearby – Similan and the Ao Phang-nga.

Still, tourism is a key driver of the country’s economic growth as seen in the latest 20-year national strategy, with income generated from the sector accounting for 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine ecologist, and a member of the national strategy committee on sustainable growth, and of the national reform committee on the environment and natural resources.

This year, tourism is expected to bring in around Bt3.3 trillion and 40 million tourists, 80 per cent of whom would visit popular marine parks, Thon noted, suggesting the impacts that can be projected.

As the impacts on Maya have been felt, concerned parties have reached a consensus to curb tourism impacts on Thai marine parks. Maya is the first to undergo a radical facelift, an action Thon called a big bang.

Maya Bay - let the healing begin | News by The Thaiger

Wounds

Plianprasop managed to make his way through the crowd and walked deeper into the island of 18 rai. There he saw the beach forest degraded, with the roots of several trees left exposed, due to excessive strolls over the sandy floor. The floor and the beach have become packed due to excessive access to the fragile ecosystems, but what is more worrying is the damage done to coral reefs under the water.

According to a recent survey by the department’s Marine National Parks Operation Centre 3, the reef flats extending over nearly 30 rai of the 59 rai of the bay have become seriously degraded, while the reef edge has been moderately degraded. Broken corals and fragments were found extensively on the sea floor.

Tourist boats passing in and out the bay were largely to blame for the damage as they gathered sand from the beaches and dropped them over the corals while moving, causing their destruction. The boat anchors were also responsible for damaged corals when they were dropped into the sea to help dock the boats.

“All the problems follow tourism activities here, which have been aggravated by the growing number of tourists. If we don’t stop and start rehabilitating the place, I’m afraid that its tourism potential |would collapse,” said Jongklai Worapongsathorn, the department’s deputy chief.

Healing

At the beach front, the Marine National Parks Operation Centre 3 head, Supaporn Prempree, is busy instructing her staff to replant corals expected to be returned to the sea off Maya once they become strong enough.

One after another, tips of branches of broken corals collected from the bay and nearby are cut off before being attached to rocks so that they would grow on them later.

Coral propagation is the first and foremost rehabilitation task taken up ahead of schedule. It’s expected that by the end of the bay closure in September, at least 2,000 coral tips would be replanted and regrown in Maya’s waters.

The department’s National Parks Office director, Songtham Suksawang, said other ecosystems of the bay including the beach forest would be studied to help address the impacts as well as find solutions.

Last but not least is a new tourism management approach for the bay. The department has currently hired some universities to help study the carrying capacity of the bay. It’s roughly calculated that 2,000 tourists and 100 boats a day is all that the bay can take.

To curb the impacts to tourism, access to the bay would be shifted to the back of the island, where a new aluminium and quality plastic-based pier and bridge would be built. Tourist numbers and transport boats will also be cut to half of the present figure if confirmed by the study, while an e-ticketing system will be introduced to help handle tourist demand.

Through the new approach, the place will have a greater chance to withstand the impacts, while pressure from tourism would be better managed by moving tourists to less-crowded spots, or second-tier destinations.

“Today, if we don’t close the bay and rehabilitate it, the damage would become irreparable in the future,” said Songtham.

As a marine ecologist and reformer, Thon has lauded the department’s action and said it marked a starting point for reform on marine resources management in the country.

“The action is like a big bang. This is a turning point. We are saying we will prioritise the health of our environment and natural resources ahead of income. This is reform,” said Thon.

Maya Bay - let the healing begin | News by The Thaiger

At the beach front, the Marine National Parks Operation Centre 3’s head, Supaporn Prempree was busy instructing her staff on the technique of replanting corals to be returned to the sea off Maya Bay once they become strong enough.

It’s a coral propagation technique commonly applied to reintroduce damaged corals back to the sea.

Broken pieces of live coral were collected from the front of the bay and nearby, along with rocks that will provide the base for the replanted corals. The coral pieces are kept covered in seawater to keep them alive.

Tips are then cut off from branches of broken coral, and the tips attached by glue to the rocks, awaiting a spurt of growth. A few drops of catalyst are required to help solidify the attachment process and protect against disease.

One rock can carry two to three coral tips. The rocks are then tagged and sent to a nursery ground at the front of the bay. There they will be checked weekly for parasites and diseases, and isolated if found to be infected.

Only those free of any diseases will be returned to their grounds. “We plan to reintroduce at least 2,000 coral tips to Maya in the next four months,” said Supaporn. “We’re hopeful.”

Maya Bay - let the healing begin | News by The Thaiger

STORY: The Nation

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Protests

Pro-democracy protest leaders hear lèse majesté charges

Caitlin Ashworth

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Pro-democracy protest leaders hear lèse majesté charges | The Thaiger
PHOTO: INN News

Pro-democracy protest leaders reported to police today to hear lèse majesté charges which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

The ongoing protests have opened discussion questioning the Thai Monarchy, a move considered taboo in Thai society and also risky as “insulting” or “defaming” statements could violate the lèse majesté law under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.

Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

The 5 leaders are facing charges over the September 19 to 20 rally where the protesters placed a plaque in an area near the Grand Palace, declaring Thailand “belongs to the people.” The plaque has since been removed.

A lèse majesté complaint was filed by a leader of the pro-government “multi-coloured shirts movement” Tul Sittisomwong who said the protesters had “once again crossed the line,” according to an earlier report from the Bangkok Post.

“I don’t mind if they talked about politics, the prime minister or the constitution because they have the right to do so, but not about the monarchy.”

The protest leaders responding to police summonses include Arnon Nampha, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, Panupong “Mike” Chadnok and Patiwat Saraiyaem, who is known as “Molam Bank.”

Arnon, who is a human rights lawyer, says he’s not worried about the charge and believes it will be cleared. The activists were accompanied by 2 counsel from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

“It is now time for us to speak straightforwardly about the royal institution. Even if what we say goes unheard and laws are used to shut our mouths, we will continue to fight.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Digital Travel Pass, Chiang Mai outbreak, Alcohol ban | November 30

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Thailand News Today | Digital Travel Pass, Chiang Mai outbreak, Alcohol ban | November 30 | The Thaiger

Monday’s edition of Thailand News Today.

An international Digital Travel Pass could be the magic bullet to restart global tourism

A new international Travel Pass, a sort of digital health certificate, may be the way forward for countries to re-open their borders and international airlines to get their planes back into the air.

The International Air Transport Association says the ‘digital’ certificate will support the safe reopening of borders.

As Covid-19 testing and the results becomes more reliable and nuanced, Governments are looking to testing as a means of limiting most of risks of Covid-19 when reopening their borders. The hope is that the new Travel Pass will replace the quarantine regime imposed by many countries and the hopes that a vaccine alone will solve the problems.

2 more cases identified in the northern Thailand Covid-19 mini outbreak

2 more people have been confirmed as infected with Covid-19 in the current mini-outbreak in Northern Thailand.

In this case both women had crossed the Thai/Myanmar border and worked at the same bar in Myanmar as the original patient, feared to be a potential super-spreader.

The 2 women, aged 23 and 26, illegally crossed the Burmese border at Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, from a border town on the Burmese side of the border, last Thursday night.

All 3 went to work there last month, but returned to Thailand after Burmese health authorities imposed a curfew from midnight to 4am.

Another 4 people have since been identified as “high risk” and are all being tested today. When added to the food delivery and hotel staff, the amount of people considered “at risk” could be up to 30.

Children injured on Hua Hin carnival ride, no safety certification submitted

3 children were injured when a carnival ride malfunctioned at the Hua Hin Red Cross Festival in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The required safety certification had not been submitted and local officials are investigating. Carnival rides now are closed for the rest of the festival.

10 children were on the ride around 10pm Friday when the hydraulics system broke, causing the arms of the ride to drop to the ground. The injured were taken to the Bangkok Hua Hin Hospital with some bruises. Doctors said all the kids are now fine.

Twitter suspends Thai royalist linked account which spread pro-government propaganda

A Thai royalist-linked account was suspended on Twitter following a review by Reuters reporters that found the account was spreading pro-government and pro-monarchy propaganda.

Reuters says they found tens of thousands of tweets from accounts amplifying the pro-government agenda, which an expert claims is a move to counter the pro-democracy movement.

Twitter said… “The account in question was suspended for violating our rules on spam and platform manipulation.”

In October, Twitter suspended 926 accounts linked to the Royal Thai Army which were “amplifying pro-government propaganda.” The Army denies they were associated with the accounts.

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million for a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story.

The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard and will start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate and landscape.

Thirteen Lives follows the story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the 13 members of the Mu Pa football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, and the international rescue that followed.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ban on sales and promotion of alcohol online starts December 7

From December 7 you’ll no longer, officially, be able to purchase alcohol online in Thailand.

The Thai government will prohibit the sales and promotion of alcoholic drinks on every online platform from December 7.

The ban includes direct sales, promotion and introduction of alcoholic products online, but will not include electronic payments of purchases at retail stores, restaurants and bars.

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Crime

12 people arrested for allegedly illegally crossing Thai-Myanmar border

Caitlin Ashworth

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12 people arrested for allegedly illegally crossing Thai-Myanmar border | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

12 Thais were arrested by Chaing Rai Immigration Police for allegedly illegally crossing the Myanmar border back into Thailand. The arrests follow a small coronavirus outbreak in Northern Thailand while Myanmar reports hundreds of new Covid-19 cases each day.

Over the weekend, a 29 year old Thai woman tested positive for Covid-19 in Chiang Mai after visiting the hospital with flu-like symptoms. She recently returned to Thailand from Myanmar where she worked at a bar in Tachileik. 2 other women, ages 23 and 26, worked at the same bar tested positive for Covid-19 after returning to Thailand, Chiang Rai public health officials reported today.

Of the 12 people recently arrested for illegally crossing the Thai-Myanmar border, 4 of them were arrested yesterday after a woman made a post on Facebook saying her and her friends used a natural route to cross into Thailand. They allegedly told police they were working illegally in Myanmar.

8 other Thai women were arrested today for illegally crossing the border from Tachileik into Chiang Rai. They allegedly told police that they each paid 6,500 baht to Myanmar traffickers to avoid border checks.

The women told police that most Thais returning home from Myanmar were in the country working at entertainment venues.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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