Speaking to The Phuket News, Gov Nisit said that his comments about food – made at a meeting on Tuesday (February 17), held to clarify details of the beach management system – were not aimed at eating, but at keeping beaches garbage free.
He was in fact referring to a long existing law, Section 20 of the Public Health Act (2535BE), which stipulates that the environment of public spaces must be kept clean, prohibiting the disposal of waste – defined as “food scraps, food containers, paper or plastic packaging, manure and human waste (which includes) faeces, urine or anything that is foul or filthy”.
Gov Nisit said “Snacks such as crisps and pre-packed items are okay, however, when it comes to dishes such as Som Tam, rice-dishes and other common “beach foods”, those who choose to eat them should ensure that they keep the beaches garbage free.”
He said the main target of the regulation is garbage deriving from disposable bags and polystyrene containers, as these are a large source of garbage.
Phuket currently produces no less than 700 tonnes of solid waste per day, the current incineration capacity.
He noted that most of the food waste on Phuket beaches comes from vendors, who are forbidden by Section 34 of the Public Health Act to sell food on all public land without a permit.
Despite this law, and the government’s mandate to enforce it, some business operators have continued to defy the rules.
The Phuket News inspected the situation at Kamala Beach on February 18, and met a group of vendors who were clearly selling beverages on the sand.
The Phuket News understands that there are at least 16 illegal vendors at Kamala, of whom at least nine have received citations for violating the regulation.
"Nine of us have cases that are in the court now but I still see big hotels still can put beach loungers and umbrellas on the prohibited zones," Chalermkiet Thonghom, a beverage business operator who claims to have worked on the beach for more than 10 years told The Phuket News.
"Tourism will be destroyed … tourists here who usually visit my shop every year have changed their destinations like Vietnam, Mexico and Indonesia … The people who are here already said they will not come back anymore."
The Phuket News also found one privately-owned plot of land next to the beach, where between 7 to 10 vendors were legitimately selling beverages.
On February 18, Vice Governor clarified to The Phuket News that no vendors should be permitted to sell anything on the sand, in accordance with the aforementioned law. And while he acknowledged that vendors at many popular beaches are still defiant of this mandate, the government will continue to uphold the law.
At the meeting in Phuket Town on Monday, Phuket Police Commander, Pol Maj Gen Pachara Boonprasit, confirmed that local law enforcement will continue to pursue illegal vendors who defy the law.
"There are 115 cases [of illegal food vendor violations being processed] at Karon police station, 27 of which were sent to court and another 62 cases [investigated by] Kathu police station, with eight of them charged and currently being processed by the court."