As such, any persons found smoking on Patong Beach from tomorrow on faces up to one year in jail or a fine of up to B100,000.
Under Thai law, the use of e-cigarettes, or “vaping”, is considered “smoking”. (See story here.)
In confirming the ban and the grace period, DMCR Director-General Jatuporn Buruspat confirmed to The Phuket News in November that the penalties specified under the new ban will now also be applied to people caught littering or dumping any rubbish on the listed protected beaches.
The ban, for which the DMCR is empowered to enforce the ban under Section 17 of the Act On The Promotion Of Marine And Coastal Resources Management B.E. 2558 (2015), is to be enforced at 24 tourist beaches in Thailand, but only at Patong Beach in Phuket.
In response, Patong Municipality has set up no less than 18 “Smoking Area” zones along the Patong boardwalk. (See story here.)
DMCR officers and Patong Municipality officials for months have held public-awareness campaigns along the popular beach to inform local residents and tourists that the initial 90-day “grace period” that started on Nov 1 will draw to an end tomorrow. (See story here.)
Several similar awareness events were held today, with DMCR officials explaining the ban to everyone within earshot at Loma Park and Patong Municipality officials walking along the beach to inform tourists.
Wittaya Kunsan, Director of the Resources Management Division of the Phuket DMCR office, told The Phuket News this afternoon, “Today, 20 officials from the DMCR and Patong Municipality united to announce this law to people on Patong Beach.
“People can see the ‘Non-smoking’ signs and ‘Smoking Area’ zones at along the beachfront, and we have handed out leaflets in Thai and English to tourists, local vendors and regular people on the beach,” Mr Wittaya said.
From tomorrow, officials will conduct random patrols along the beach, Mr Wittaya explained, and he invited people to report any transgressions.
“We don’t have enough officials to cover the whole beach all of the time, so we do need people to help by informing us,” he said.
“Anyone can help us to protect the beach from cigarette butts and save the environment. If you see people smoking on the beach, please inform the DMCR office directly with a photo or video clip (by email to firstname.lastname@example.org),” he added.
“Please, use your common sense and respect the law because persons found breaking this law may face a fine of up to B100,000 or even up to one year in jail. It is serious,” Mr Wittaya said.
Of note, some 21% of Phuket residents in an online poll by The Phuket News last year voted in support of the ban and the penalties, but a further 36% voted, “I support the ban, but the new heavy penalties are outrageous. Police have for years already had the option of fining people B2,000 for littering.”
Overall, 43% of all respondents to the poll voted, “It’s ridiculous. There should be no ban on smoking at beaches at all.” (See story here.)