Speaking at his first meeting with honorary consuls on the island, he said, “I want you to understand that in the past, the activities on the beach were mostly illegal – people encroaching on public beaches.
“The other day, I met Michael Hancock, the British Consul, who came down from Bangkok, and he said that in the past the beaches in Phuket were free.
“I explained to him that they were not free, because they were occupied by groups of people. But that image has been changed today because we have strict law enforcement and I won’t let those groups do that again.
“I set three steps for beach management,” he explained. These, he said, are enforcement of laws, beach management and sustainability.
“The first was Social Order – enforcement of the law so that anybody, locals or tourists, can come to use the beach freely.
“The second is beach management. In recognition that some tourists may want to use mats or cushions on the beach, I have set aside the special 10-per-cent zone for them, so that beach users can have a choice.
“Two questions: Why 10 per cent? And why not allow sunbeds and sunloungers [as opposed to mats or cusions]?
“If you allow more than the 10 per cent there will be no room for people who want to just sit on the beach.
“I also listened to Phuket people [who told me] if you let [sunbeds] come back, [the whole beach] will be occupied again.
“Mr Hancock asked me why is the beach regulation so strict? I told him that is because the law in Thailand prohibits littering or drinking alcohol in public.
“I have been six times to beach cleaning sessions and I found the beaches very dirty. There were cigarette ends everywhere I went. How can we create a sustainable beach [like this]?
“I understand that some tourists might not feel comfortable with the rules but I would like you to follow them and understand that we do have rules and you need to follow them.
“Our rules will preserve our nation and our beaches. The rules are meant to keep the beach organised in the long run.
“From now on, police or soldiers will no longer be involved in enforcing rules on tourists. But we will put our rules in hotel rooms and tour companies. I realise that the rules may not be understood [by everyone] in one day. It takes time to change the behaviour of tourists, business operators, and officials.”
As for building up sustainability, he said, “I will discuss with local municipalities the rules for further law enforcement and beach management committees. I have ordered government officials not to go after tourists or disturb them.
“We will use other channels to communicate with the tourists, I promise you that.”
Seven Smulders, honorary consul for the Netherlands, said he thought that the prohibition on beach chairs and sunbeds would see Phuket lose a large number of elderly tourists.
Governor Nisit replied, “I understand that some tourists have different needs but I want you to wait for this three-month plan to end – it’s been in place two months now – after which I will evaluate performance and will discuss all the concerns and problems with government officials.
“I would like to ask for you to understand that when it comes to matters of public policy, I must listen to all the stakeholders in the province.
“This is a public policy, and there will definitely be winners and losers. I want to see the benefit going to our country.
“What surprised me is that tourists visiting Phuket are [generally] happy. But people in Phuket are not. In the Gross National Happiness Index, Phuket people are second from last.”