The formal request was made at Patong Municipality at 10am yesterday (Mar 26) by Ampien Tientin, Head of the Patong Sunbed Club, along with several other Patong sunbed operators.
Present to receive the formal request was Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup and Lt Col Surasak Peungyeam, of the Royal Thai Army’s 25th Military Circle, which are based in Phuket, and other military personnel.
Mr Ampien asked for existing areas for sunbeds and umbrellas to be extended by 40 metres during the busy tourist peak month of November through April.
He also asked for a new sunbed and umbrella area to be set up along the central section of the beach.
The reasons given for the expanding the operators’ areas was to better serve tourists during the high season as well as to help keep the areas clean.
“Sunbed operators keep the areas where they operate clean of any litter which helps to keep the whole beach clean, and expanding the sunbed areas also increases the security and safety of tourists, as the operators keep an eye on tourists and their valuables while they are swimming,” Mr Ampien said.
Mayor Chalermluck confirmed the she would raise the issue with the Patong beach organising committee.
Lt Col Surasak attended the meeting as a representative of provincial beach management committee, she added.
“This will be taken under consideration. We will inform you of any updates later.” she said.
In order to legally approve any such expansion the Patong “beach management committee” must first seek approval from the provincial beach management committee, which was set up in the wake of the Army-led crackdown to clear all vendors from all Phuket beaches in 2014 amid an “anti-mafia” purge.
In the wake of the Army-led beach vendor crackdown, the Phuket provincial government in 2015 with full authority of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) mandated that beach vendors as a whole were prohibited from occupying more than 10% of sand area of any beach in Phuket. (See story here.)
Phuket is the only province to enact such a law restricting commercial practices actually on the beaches.
By October 2016, Phuket received a new Governor, Chockchai Dejamornthan, who vowed to clear all vendors from Phuket beaches as he pointed out that no government office in the country had any authority to allow any commercial operations on any beaches in Thailand, never mind creating a law to specifically to allow them to operate on 10% of the sand area.
“Also, it appears that we still have issues with the umbrella and beach chair mafias. There will be no more mafias. It is my duty to work out who will manage Phuket’s beaches, but I can assure you it will not be mafias and they will be run in accordance with the law,” he said. (See story here.)
Yet the beach operators remained, and Governor Chockchai was soon posted out of Phuket.
Patong Mayor Chalermluck herself petitioned for sunbed operators to be allowed back on Patong Beach in January 2017 after entrepreneurial operators started sculpting ‘sand loungers’ for tourists to enjoy, for a price. (See story here.)
That was after the Navy had ordered sand loungers removed. (See story here.)
Within days, the Royal Thai Navy sunk Mayor Chalermluck’s appeal. (See story here.)
In February 2017, the sun loungers were allowed back onto Patong Beach – but only after Maj Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Deputy Commander of Royal Thai Army Region 4, the military unit responsible for all of Southern Thailand, gave his direct consent without any provincial officials present.
“In Patong, There are five 10% zones, with 180 umbrellas and 360 beach chairs in each zone,” Mayor Chalermluck explained at the time.
“Beach chair rental prices are limited to not more than B200 per a chair,” she said.
“This is in line with the original policy set out in 2014, which allowed beach chairs in the 10% zones only, which is flexible and better for elderly tourists,” she said. (See story here.)
The encroachment by operators on Patong Beach has continued to grow this year. Only last month jet-ski operators were allowed to start parking their jet-skis and trailers on certain sections on Patong Beach. (See story here.)