But before they started posting the orders in each of the properties, Ma’an Samran, chief executive of Cherng Talay OrBorTor and his deputy, Siri Yokthong, went with Pipop Sutkhao, Deputy District Officer from Thalang, Thammarong Chuayaksorn, Deputy District Officer from Muang District and about 30 Territorial Defense Volunteers to Surin Beach to check on progress.
“Right now 90 per cent of the [area to the west of the footpath] is cleared. We have a truck and an excavator from OrBorTor Cherng Talay to help people to dig out concrete,” Mr Thammarong said.
“In the future, there will be no beach chairs or massage beds on this beach. People cannot take advantage of public land anymore.
He looked out over the cleaned area with its coconut trees and said, “Right now the beach looks really clean and beautiful.”
Thalang Deputy District Officer, Mr Pipop told The Phuket News that Surin Beach is now a beach for everyone.
“Next month [July] we are going to have a concert and beach-opening ceremony. It’s going to be fun. The event will be called ‘The Beach Is For Everyone’. The exact date and time have yet to be decided.”
North of Surin Beach, businesses encroaching on public land on Bang Tao and Lay Pang beaches – and in some cases actually on the beach – were handed orders telling them to rip down their structures and restore nature within 30 days, or face legal action.
Among places that must be partially or completely demolished are Lotus Restaurant and Babylon Beach Club, along with many wooden-pile restaurants at the water’s edge.
The business owners were not happy. One Laypang restaurant owner, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Phuket News that, with his restaurant demolished he would have trouble feeding his family.
“I’ve been operating my restaurant for 18 years now. I’m not sure if this was an order from the coup [leaders] or if the OrBorTor is just making false claims in asking us to move.
“We don’t know where we are going to do business now. Even when we knock it down, there’s no space for us to store it all. We don’t know now how we can make a living. This restaurant is my only source of income.
“I spent more than a million baht building this restaurant. If I have to build a new one, I’ll have to spend more than B2 million.
“It feels like they are bullying working people. I’m stressed. I have a family to take care of, a car and a house that I must make payments on, and other expenses. I have 30 days to move the place out.
“To be honest, I feel hopeless.”
But not everyone is against the drive to reclaim public land. A member of staff from a well-known restaurant in the area told The Phuket News that he was happy to see the right thing happening.
“It’s good. I absolutely agree with this. We should have done this in Thai society ages ago, but I would like the NCPO [the Royal Thai Army’s National Council for Peace and Order] to do this in all areas, otherwise there will be claims of bias.
“It’s not only Phuket beaches. Look at the hills on Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and other islands. Whatever belongs to the state must be taken back. They should make it same everywhere.
“I support this even if my boss is going to lose. But business people usually don’t have just one business. They do other types of business, too. Plus, this is just a wooden structure; it didn’t cost that much.”
An expat who has lived in Phuket for seven years commented, “The beach is a place that should be clean and protected.
“I think they are doing a good job and they care about nature and Thailand. I’m so happy that someone is doing the right thing and cares about the beaches. They should do this everywhere.”