However, as with Patong, where sun loungers were allowed to return to the sand on Monday (Feb 27), the loungers must remain inside the 10% zones, Gov Chockchai warned.
“For now the sun loungers are allowed back on the beaches. There are no changes to any of the other beach rules – for example alcohol and food vendors must remain inside the 10% zones,” he added.
Gov Chockchai asserted that the return of the sun loungers was a “trial”, but gave no hint as to any deadline for the trial to come to an end.
He also claimed that the return of the sun loungers came with his approval, though attempts by Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebup to bring the beach chairs back were shot down at every turn late last year.
The sun loungers were allowed back onto Patong Beach on Monday only after Maj Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Deputy Commander of Royal Thai Army Region 4, the military unit responsible for all of Southern Thailand, gave his direct consent without any provincial officials present. (See story here.)
“I permitted this trial in Phuket. The sun loungers is only a trial. This week, the sun loungers’ trial has been approved for two of nine beaches in Phuket,” Gov Chockchai told The Phuket News yesterday (Mar 1).
“This approval has come from the Phuket provincial (beach management) committee that I assigned Vice Governor Siwaporn Chuasawad to chair. Maj Gen Pornsak has joined this committee, and Maj Gen Pornsak will join the inspection at Kata Beach this Friday (Mar 3),” he said.
Asked to clarify how long the trial would be for, Gov Chockchai said, “We are still assessing that.”
Of note, shortly after he arrived in Phuket, Gov Chockchai on Oct 17 last year called for all vendors, umbrellas and beach chairs to be cleared from all Phuket beaches. (See story here.)
“Actually no laws which allows 10% zones on beaches,” he said at the time.
“Also, it appears that we still have issues with the umbrella and beach chair mafias. There will be no more mafias. It is my duty to work out who will manage Phuket’s beaches, but I can assure you it will not be mafias and they will be run in accordance with the law,” he added.
Wanchai Saetan, Public Works Chief at Karon Municipality, welcomed the return of the sun loungers at Kata Beach.
“This trial is in response to tourism needs,” he told The Phuket News. “I am redrafting the 10% zones at Kata and Karon beaches to be horizontal areas (along the beach). If this is approved the sun loungers will be back on Karon Beach too
“There are 73 umbrellas and 146 beach chairs in each 10% zone at Kata Beach, but the sun loungers must stay inside 10% zones only,” Mr Wanchai explained.
“I don’t know how long this will be allowed, we must see what happens on Friday,” he added.
Mr Wanchai also noted, “Right now Karon Municipality does not own any sun loungers or directly operate any rental of them, but in the future we will have our own.”
However, Mr Wanchai did not elaborate on whether the municipality would provide them freely for tourists or rent them out directly themselves – or rent them out en masse to beach chair rental operators under a concession.
Police in 2014 revealed to the public the illegal beach sunbed industry on Phuket and details of the cases they had built against Karon Mayor Thawee Thongchaem, who surrendered to police on June 4 that year to answer to a variety of corruption and ‘”mafia taxi” charges.
Central to the investigation was how officials offered dozens of government “concession” contracts to allow vendors to work on Kata and Karon beaches, with contracts totalling billions of baht. (See story here.)
None of the Karon officials called have yet stood trial for the charges against them.