Governor Nisit Jansomwong was responding to a series of viral posts by one Facebook user called “Decha Sithidej”.
The posts, including several appeals in Thai to “help Phuket tourism”, are accompanied with mobile-phone quality photographs and video clips showing uniformed Thai police confronting tourists – some of them elderly – on the beach this past weekend.
Defiant tourist sentiment was heightened this morning when a group of some 100 had reportedly stormed to Kamala police station to "demand clarification on the rules"
Addressing rumours that tourists were being harassed and even arrested for using sun loungers on the beach, the governor clarified, "I have never ordered anyone to arrest tourists, but [my mandate was to pursue] beach business operators that occupy beach land for personal profit.”
"I had a meeting with police yesterday (February 15) to clarify understanding again. I understand that it takes time for tourists to know about the new rules.”
It is clear from the video clips that no tourist was arrested or forcefully removed from the beach. If anything, a communication barrier is apparent between police and the tourists.
The governor went on to slam misleading communication tactics employed by police at Surin, Kamala and Patong this past weekend, referring to the dissemination of confusing and mistranslated flyers.
The flyers had two different messages, in Thai and English. The Thai message was clear: “Don’t place beds on the area of the beach . No exception”
However, the English message prompted a lot of itchy scalps, as it read, “No Summer dream on beach, start February 12”.
The governor said he had not made any orders for such flyers to be printed or disseminated and he warned officers not to continue to disseminate any more such messages.
“Today, I’ve sent all three Vice Governors to hotels to ask for cooperation to inform their guests about the rules.”
The governor went on to reiterate the rules.
"Tourists can bring mats, cloths or cushions [and place them] outside the 10 per cent zoning area where umbrellas are allowed.
“I have stressed with the officers already that we need public relations not law enforcement at this starting point, as [maintaining a good] tourism image is essential to our province."
See also, Tim Shaw speaks with Phuket's German Honorary Consul about the confusion on today's Lunch on Live here.
Additional reporting by Eakapop Thongtub