Col Santi Sakuntanark, Commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment and the highest-ranking army officer stationed in Phuket, told The Phuket News he was seeking an audience with Mr MaAnn after he led an inspection of Bang Tao beach on Monday (Mar 13).
“I want to talk with the Cherng Talay chief about the restaurant with chairs and tables on the beach… He well knows about it, but he has done nothing to arrest these people. Bang Tao beach is one of the nine beaches under the ‘beach management’ policy,” Col Santi said.
“I have informed the Palad (Cherng Talay OrBorTor Chief Administrative Office) to inform the chief that he must must come to talk with me.
“I want to find out what he wants and what businesses want at that beach. I want their conclusions reported to me. I will pass on my report to the Army and the Phuket Provincial beach management committee,” Col Santi said.
Mr MaAnn came under further pressure on Monday when local vendors petitioned him to set up 10% zones and allow them to work on Surin Beach, which is also within Mr MaAnn’s geographical area of responsibility.
“I know and understand people here. If the Phuket Provincial Beach Management Committee allows it, I have no problems,” he told the wannabe beach vendors on Monday.
Asked whether the Army will allow sun loungers and umbrellas at Surin Beach, Col Santi told The Phuket News, “In my opinion, Surin Beach should be kept clear to honour to The King, as the beach has already been named to be maintained in honour of His Majesty.
“I understand there is pressure to allow the same conditions as at some other beaches, but the Phuket Provincial Beach Management Committee identified only nine beaches to have th10% zones set up on them – and Surin Beach was never one of those nine beaches,” Col Santi said.
“If the beach management committee does consider allowing 10% zones at Surin Beach, they must do so carefully, because they know Surin Beach is a ‘Royal beach’,” he added.
Regarding Laem Singh Beach and a protest by “local vendors” on Monday against a blockade set up preventing them from accessing the beach, Col Santi noted,” I know. We told the Phuket Highways Office to block the upper entrance. I don’t want people and tourists to park and go down there.
“Sun loungers are not allowed on Laem Singh Beach, as it was named one of the ‘virgin beaches’ under the original beach management policy.
“We know people are being charged to cross land to access the beach, and we began investigating this at the beginning of March.
“I think the entrance fee is B200 per person to get to a public beach. People should not have to pay for this,” he said.
“Also, a private entity claims it is their land. I doubt this and I have asked the Land Office to check their claim.
Col Santi also pointed out, “I don’t want to force people by using the power of the Army. Instead, the Marine Office, the Land Office and the local administration organisation are all involved in these issues, and we are working with these other officials.
“Don’t worry, I will try to resolve these issues as quickly as possible,” he said.