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Maya Bay’s long road to recovery

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by Kornrawee Panyasuppakun and The Thaiger

Phi Phi tour operators are crying foul and seeking assistance from authorities after the local tourist magnet, Maya Bay has been declared ‘closed indefinitely’ pending further rehabilitation of the corals around the bay.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is extending the closure of Maya Bay’s Had Nopparat Tara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park in Krabi with no clear schedule for when it might re-open. The announcement was published on Monday in the Royal Gazette and has made global headlines yesterday – CNN and express.co.uk amongst many others.

According to environmental inspectors, the current ecosystem has not recovered sufficiently so tourism activities in and around Maya Bay remain banned from October 1 onwards until the marine and coastal ecosystem is back to its normal state.

The Nation reports that the order earlier this year gave the beach a four month break from tourists – from June to September. The move was an attempt to save the battered coral reefs at the |sugary-white beach made famous by the 2000 Hollywood film “The Beach”, from the year-round tourist traffic.

After the island closed its doors, the national park and wildlife authority started planting hundreds of corals in Maya Bay, and some have started growing branches, DNP director-general Jongklai Worapongsatorn said, adding a baby shark was also spotted in the bay that was once filled with tour boats.

However, despite some good news, the bay’s marine ecosystem remained very fragile and only 30 per cent had recovered, said director Songtham Suksawang of the department’s National Park Office. Prior to the closure, most of the corals in Maya Bay had died, crushed by boats and their anchors, he said. Also, the sand on the beach was disappearing under the weight of 5,000 tourists who visited the island daily, he added.

Maya Bay's long road to recovery | News by The Thaiger

But not everyone is happy with the continued closure.

Wattrapol Chanthararo, chairman of the Koh Phi Phi tourism business club, said the tourist ban on Maya Bay will affect their business as tourists had already booked travel packages. The ban was imposed without hearing their opinions, he claims. They would meet to discuss the matter and hand over a letter to Krabi’s provincial governor.

He said a meeting of club members would be called on October 8 or 9 to discuss ways around the problems caused by the department’s latest announcement. Their conclusions would be forwarded to the Krabi governor and the related agencies.

Songtham said: “We understand tourism is a source of income for the community and the country, but if we continue to exploit the natural heritage until it is beyond recovery, tourism would completely end since no one would come anymore.

“Today the corals are growing steadily. If we open Maya Bay to tourists now, they will die and the lost marine ecosystem may take decades, not just years, to recover,” he warned.

The director pointed out that corals at Koh Yoong, a famous snorkelling site for example, had recovered well after tourism was banned for just two years.

There are many other attractions in Krabi province and the nearby provinces such as Koh Poda, Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Hong, and Separated Sea (Thale Waek), Songtham suggested.

While Maya Bay is out of bounds to tourists, the DNP is drawing up a sustainable tourism plan. The boats would have to dock at floating piers at the back of the island, and the number of boats and tourists will be limited.

In the near future, the tour boats would be visiting the island in allotted shifts and vacation-makers would need to make bookings before visiting Maya Bay. All these ideas are being considered by the authority and marine experts.

Maya Bay's long road to recovery | News by The Thaiger

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Crime

Krabi man arrested for animal abuse after allegedly killing pet dogs

Caitlin Ashworth

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Krabi man arrested for animal abuse after allegedly killing pet dogs | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand

A Krabi man was arrested on animal abuse charges after he allegedly shot and killed his pet dogs. The non-profit Watchdog Thailand filed a police complaint yesterday with a statement from a witness.

Police arrested 39 year old Surasak Kongduang at his home in Krabi’s Muang district. Surasak allegedly admitted to police that he shot both his pet dogs in the head and buried them in the backyard. Officers searched his home and found 3 guns and a bow. All weapons are legal and registered, police say.

Surasak allegedly told police that his wife fled and left the dogs behind after an argument a few days prior. He allegedly told officers that his mother is old and he felt bad about leaving her to care for the dogs, adding that one dog is lame while the other is sick.

Surasak was charged with animal abuse and for unlawful discharge of a firearm.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Academics call on government to hurry up and help the tourism industry

Maya Taylor

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Academics call on government to hurry up and help the tourism industry | The Thaiger

Leading Thai academics are calling on the government to get a move on and help the tourism industry before it’s too late. Addressing a gathering arranged by the Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion, Kiriya Kulkolkran from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Economics, pointed to the 80% drop in international tourism as a result of the Covid-19 fallout. His estimate includes the first few months of the year when there was actually a functional tourism industry in Thailand.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Kiriya says just 4% of businesses in the tourism sector say they’ve made the same amount or more than they did before Covid-19. She adds that a survey shows employees in the industry are concerned about debt accumulation and “extremely worried about the future”.

Bovorn Subsing, from Chulalongkorn University’s Social Research Institute, has backed up the comments, saying tourism workers have seen their wages drop by 60%, while still facing the same, or higher, cost of living. The result is that most are now in debt.

Kiriya predicts the devastation could continue for over 3 years, affecting not just tourism operators but the entire supply chain, as well as new graduates and those seeking their first job. She says that until the sector recovers, the government needs to provide tailored help for businesses, singling out Phuket hotels, who are struggling to survive without foreign guests.

The islands of Phuket and Samui, plus the other ‘tourist’ islands around Thailand, are facing a particular problem as they’re mostly geared for the international tourist market. Domestic tourism, rebooted last July when the local airlines were permitted to fly again, has mostly shunned the popular tourist islands.

One worker at a Phuket hotel, 52 year old Anchisa Sirinanthasak, addressed the forum in support of a possible co-payment scheme for hotel workers. It’s understood most hotel operators are paying employees 62-75% of their normal salary, which works out at around 8,000-9,000 baht per person and is not enough to cover their costs.

Meanwhile, Manop Kaewphaka from Homenet Thailand, a non-profit that protects home-based workers, has called on the government to allow foreign tourists back into the Kingdom and to provide more support for informal workers, in the form of wage guarantees and co-payment.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Officials criticised over Covid border screening measures

The Thaiger

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Officials criticised over Covid border screening measures | The Thaiger

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is being criticised over its border screening measures after an Indian man, who stayed in Thailand for 3 months, tested positive for Covid-19 in Krabi province while remaining asymptomatic.

Walairat Chaifoo, director of the Epidemiology Bureau, has defended the screening measures by saying the Department of Disease Control has initiated mass tests for those “at-risk” at their workplaces in June, with the results showing no infections. Furthermore, all hospitals per the DDC, are required to monitor those patients with lung infections or respiratory issues, as they are known to be symptoms of Covid.

“We have never lowered our guard for the surveillance system. Mass testing is still going on to detect the deadly virus.”

“But what we have seen more often is many cases of people who don’t show signs of illness or long-time infection. It means the virus still exists in the country and people must not ignore self-preventive measures.”

The 37 year old Indian patient has joined 95% of those who have been diagnosed with Covid without displaying symptoms. Such a finding makes it apparent that a local infection can still occur through an asymptomatic patient. But despite such findings, Thailand remains one of the countries deemed successful in containing the virus. Currently, Thailand has less than 4,000 cases reported with 60 deaths – a number that is far below most other countries. Globally, the cases have soared to 50 million with another projected spike in infections coming in the next 2 months.

The National Vaccine Institute says the kingdom could get vaccinations 6 months after the Pfizer vaccine is launched, in which the government says it hopes to vaccinate half of the population by the first half of next year. No vaccine has yet passed the Phase 3 trials, the final trials before cleared by national health agencies.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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