The news came today (Mar 23) at a meeting headed by Col Dusadee Arawuit, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, and Lt Col Prawut Wongseenin, Director of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) Bureau of Consumer Protection and Environmental Crime.
The meeting was held after Col Duasdee and Col Prawut inspected Laem Singh Beach today in response to local vendors filing a complaint about being forced to pay to cross private land to access the beach. (See story here.)
Bangkok Broadcasting & TV Co Ltd (BBTV), the company that broadcasts Thai TV Channel 7, privatised access to Laem Singh Beach in July last year and started charging B100 per person to cross beachfront land that the company claims to own.
Further, access across the land is open only from 7am to 7pm, the company announced with a large sign posted at the site. (See story here.)
Further aggravating the local beach vendors in their repeated complaints about their restricted access to the beach was a blockade set up earlier this month preventing them from accessing the beach, spurring the vendors to stage another protest last Monday (Mar 13).
To this, Col Santi Sakuntanark, Commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment and the highest-ranking army officer stationed in Phuket, told The Phuket News last week,” I know. We told the Phuket Highways Office to block the upper entrance. I don’t want people and tourists to park and go down there.
“Sun loungers are not allowed on Laem Singh Beach, as it was named one of the ‘virgin beaches’ under the original beach management policy.
“We know people are being charged to cross land to access the beach, and we began investigating this at the beginning of March.” (See story here.)
Further adding to the vendors’ grievance, Pairote Thanakunwinij, a legal representative from BBTV, told the meeting today that after April 7 beach access across the land will no longer be permitted.
“The land deeds the company has for this land are genuine. The company bought the 55 rai of land in 1986. There are no mentions on the land deeds of any public thoroughfare across the land. We will allow anyone to check this, not just officials,” Mr Pairote said.
“The company allowed residents to cross the land to access the beach for 31 years (sic) and never charged for it, that changed when the government started its beach management policy.
“Laem Singh was ordered to be a virgin beach – so the company planned to develop the area, but residents asked for extra time to keep working on the beach. The company agreed to allow access for another year and eight months, but that period will expire on April 7,” he said.
Col Dusadee noted, “We have been informed of this situation several times and many officers have investigated this case. At this stage we will not release any details of our investigation, but we have already found officials involved in this issue have been transferred and some people have even died, namely (former Phuket Land Chief) Tawatchai Anukul (see story here.)
“Our investigation is continuing, we are checking the SorKor 1 and NorSor 3 land deeds, and satellite images of the area. Also, this case is still being heard in court. I want to the two parties to be at peace until the court reaches it decision,” he said.
Kathu District Chief Sayan Chanachaiwong, also present at the meting, confirmed to the vendors that under the beach-management policy Laem Singh had been ordered to be preserved as a beach in its fully natural state.
“The Kamala OrBorTor (Tambon Administration Organisation) has allocated space for the vendors to set up on Kamala Beach,” he added.
Regardless, the vendors present maintained their call to return to providing services on Laem Singh Beach as a way of making a living.