The question came to the fore after coral preservation efforts at key tourist dive sites and coral reef attractions for day-trippers in and around Phuket were ramped up to the ridiculous and shift target from the tourists themselves to the tour guides and tour companies that lead them.
The drive began in earnest in late January, when officials from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Phuket office posted signs at Koh Racha Yai’s three main bays warning tour guides and tourists of the consequences of breaking marine conservation rules. (See story here.)
After a couple of “misunderstandings”, Chinese tourist Huang Yongjia, 35, was caught with two baby Parrotfish in a plastic bottle and was charged and fined B100,000 for his infraction. (See story here.)
Officials tried the same with 53-year-old Russian tourist Olga Smirnova, but as she did not have the B100,000, she spent two nights in police lockup while awaiting trial for feeding bread to fish at Racha Yai. (See story here.)
However, after Ms Smirnova’s dire situation, held legal hostage in Thailand while awaiting trial and sentencing of a token fine for her misdemeanour, officials changed tack and started focusing on tour guides and tour operators.
Nonthasak Marine and one of their guides came into question for allegedly breaking off a piece of coral to kill a sea urchin in front of tourists, a claim the company strongly denies, and an illegal guide now stands accused of standing on corals at Koh Racha. (See stories here and here.)
To all this, The Phuket News asked readers, “Who should be held responsible environmental damage – the tourists who break the rules, or the tour guides and the companies that hire them?”
Only 7% of respondents to the poll, which closed at midnight last night (April 9), voted, “Tourists should be held responsible for their own behaviour. If a tourist breaks the rules, he or she is the only one to be held responsible, not the guide.”
A further 29% voted, “Guides should be held fully responsible, not tourists, as it’s the guide’s job to ensure tourists are safe and do not break environmental-protection laws.”
However, an overwhelming majority of 64% of all respondents voted, “Both tourists and their guides should be held responsible, and both should be charged.”
For the full poll results, click here.
If your preferred response was not available, feel free to add it in the comments below.
To see the results of our previous poll, asking “Should Patong night venues stay open later?”, click here.