They began with the ongoing garbage problem. Sarid Jandee, president of the Racha Yai Conservation Club led the team to the garbage dump area, bordered by a palm thatch wall.
Mr Sarid said the garbage dump was not managed according to Public Health act. When it rains, he added, dirty water from the garbage flows into a nearby public klong and then into the sea.
The klong, too, has its problems. There, there is a construction site. The owner of the land has yet to be identified, Mr Sarid said, but he pointed out that piles had been driven apparently to expand the land illegally, and a wood-and concrete bridge has been built across the klong, blocking access by boats..
“This is public klong, but a private business has built the bridge without getting permission. They also piled the banks of the klong, making their land area larger,” Mr Sarid said.
V/Gov Somkiat ordered Muang District Officer Supachai Pochnukul, Rawai Mayor Arun Soros and a representative from the Harbour Department to investigate those problems and to prosecute those involved in the construction.
Afterward, the team was led to the beach. There they were shown large piles of sand and small palm trees planted in the sand. Mr Sarid said he believed that that sand had been piled by a hotel business in an effort to turn it into private land.
After inspecting it, V/Gov Somkiat said, “The land owner claims to have a Chanote for the land. We have to check whether it is legal or not. We are not yet sure about the boundary marks of the beach land. I have ordered land officers to come and measure the land.
“I think the departments concern at provincial level can solve these problems effectively and we will start immediately.” He ordered Prapan Kanprasang, Chief of the Damrongtham Centre to allocate tasks to all sectors concern.
One problem, however, may be much more difficult to address, he said. This is a gravel walkway Mr Sarid showed him, near the canal, which has a gate and a sign announcing the times when the gate will be locked.
The walkway crosses private land, but Mr Sarid said the islanders had used it for many years. The laws on public rights of law in Thailand are notoriously vague.
Lastly, Mr Sarid talked about a barge that is towed to Racha from time to time and which he said has destroyed a lot of coral. He said that in 2009 a barge loaded with bags of cement for hotel construction capsized, causing massive damage to coral on the sea bed.
“There are still barges being brought to Racha Yai despite all our warnings about coral destruction,” Mr Sarid said. “Also, I’m afraid hotels will attract jet skis or parasailing boats.”
Apart from asking for solutions to these problems, Arun Solos suggested that the island should be carefully surveyed because many people who have lived on land for very long time have not yet been granted land titles. Mr Somkiat and the team agreed to look into this.