There is yet some resistance to change. There are still some plots on the beachside with concrete edges to mark territory, and one restaurant this morning had yet to demolish six one-metre-high concrete posts.
When police and the deputy chief of Thalang District approached the owner to tell him to get rid of the posts he shouted at them but eventually ordered his staff to knock the posts down.
Loudly, he ordered his waitresses to take some water to the officials. The officials told him, “No thanks.”
“People say I’m influential,” the restaurant owner told The Phuket News, “But I’m not.”
V/Gov Jamroen said the fate of the businesses and buildings on the east side of the beach path is still being discussed.
“We are discussing the public land document for Surin Beach at the moment because, in the past, some budget was approved to build on the land. We are discussing what should we do with the land now.
“We are thinking about how the buildings looked before the Tsunami [of 2004] and how they look now.
“Also, we want to establish the true status of the land. If it has been changed [from the original purpose of giving local people a chance to make a living], it must be returned to the way it was before that. It must all be return it to the state.
“The people we helped before don’t need help anymore [because they are rich]. I heard that the buildings have changed hands four or five times.
“As to reports that businesses have been paying an annual ‘rent’ of B5 million a rai, I have already asked the head of OrBorTor Cherng Talay to check the information. Then we will follow the due process of the law.
“The issue is being discussed with the Attorney-general of Thailand and the Office of the Council of State. We will reach a conclusion as soon as possible.”
OrBorTor boss Ma’an could not immediately confirm whether the buildings on the east side were safe from demolition or not.
“We don’t have a conclusion yet. We handed a letter to Office of the Council of State to see how we can use public land or how to systematise it.”
An old local approached the officials and said, “Take them down, dig them out! We have been giving them opportunities for business for a long, long time.”
Plainly passionate about the topic, the old man pointed out that Surin Beach was visited in 1959 by HM King Bhumibol and HM Queen Sirikit, who called it “Golden Sand Beach”. It should be returned to the King, he said. He pointed to some pine trees that had appeared in pictures taken of Their Majesties.
Sutee Lienudom, a former member of the Provincial Council and former Kamnan (chief of a group of villages) in Cherng Talay, told The Phuket News that Phuket initially had many planned projects such as coast roads around the island and a tunnel in Koh Kaew, but the plans took too long and in the meantime, the land intended for these projects had been illegally occupied.
“I want to see clean beaches all over Phuket because Phuket’s selling points are its beaches, the sea and the natural environment.
“We must organise the beaches for the better. We must work for local people, not for business people. Before, the province and an international aid fund contributed B13 million as far back as 1996, the intention being to build these buildings for local. Right now we have businesses occupying three or four buildings each. This is not right. They should be for local people only.
“I don’t agree with these people building things up like this. The buildings are hiding the landscape.
“The taxi drivers are not only the only group of people [involved in criminal activity at Surin Beach]. The people who are encroaching on public land are the real ‘influential’ people.
“Our country has good natural resources and good tourism but it is not protected properly.
“If no one helps to keep an eye on it, it’s going to be destroyed one day. Then no one is going to come and visit us. Where will our income come from then?” he asked.
The cleaning of the beach has hit one group of local entrepreneurs: the masseuses. Some 30 of them, too, barged into the assembly on the beach, demanding to know where they could place the massage beds where they do business.
They asked Mr Ma’an and V/Gov Jamroen to provide a solution for them.
V/Gov Jamrern listened and gave his approval to a plan to allocate five points along the beach, each with enough room for 10 massage beds.
Jaw Sittidech, 60, a representative of the masseuses, said, “We don’t know where exactly the beds will be placed. We are still waiting for OrBorTor to make that clear.
“I have been massaging people since I was a young woman until now. In the past, there were no massage beds; just mattresses,” she added.
Video of the goings-on may be seen here.