The court on Monday (Mar 11) reversed the order of the Phuket Administrative Court last year, which put the brakes on a plan by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conversation to curb tourism on the islands off the Andaman Coast in Phang Nga's Kura Buri district.
On Oct 9 last year, the department announced that only 3,325 tourists and 525 divers per day would be allowed to enter the national park, and visitors would not be able to stay overnight without receiving permission.
R/Adm Niphon Sommoh, who represented tour operators on Similan and Surin islands, petitioned the provincial administrative court to lift the limitation in order to protect their businesses. On Dec 30, the Phuket court issued an injunction against the visitor curbs that ran from Jan 1 to March 31. The department appealed the ruling to the higher court.
The Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling, which was made public yesterday (Mar 13), said R/Adm Niphon had failed to present a valid argument against curbing the rising number of tourists to the islands.
The marine park said the influx of tourists was beyond the islands’ capacity and could cause irreparable damage to the environment.
“The injunction issued by the Phuket Administrative Court will lead to severe damage,” the highest court said.
The Similan Islands are one of the most popular attractions off the Andaman coast, and at least 5,000 tourists visited during the peak period.
The plan to limit tourists to the islands followed the closure of Maya Bay since June last year to rehabilitate the marine ecosystem.
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