They have also confirmed that the tour guide and his employers are to face legal action after it was discovered the guide was conducting tours without the necessary permit.
The issue came to light after photos of the Thai guide, who is employed by Phuket-based Dragon Dive, purportedly showing him and two Korean tourists walking on coral reefs during a “Try Dive” at Koh Racha Yai were posted on the Facebook page of another tour guide, Khanchit Klingklip.
Mr Khanchit posted the photos on his Facebook page along with the message; “It has been a while since officials have come to monitor the underwater activity here in Koh Racha.
“[Those pictured] were very careless about the marine environment. It does not set a good example for other tourists.
“When I approached the instructor and told him he should not do that, he simply denied any wrongdoing.”
At 2pm yesterday (Mar 22), the guide, Mr Nattha Srinim, 35, from Trang met with Director of the DMCR’s Conservation Division, Mr Suchart Rattanareangsri, at his office to explain his side of the story.
“I did not let tourists step on the corals we just got near the corals and stepped on the sand. We very close to the corals so it looked like we stepped on them, but I want officials to check the pictures again as this has caused me a big problem.
“If I do not have a job I will not have an income, and I cannot do any other job,” Mr Nattha said.
However, Mr Nattha then went on to admit that he was working illegally without a permit.
“I accept that I do not have a permit to do this job,” he said.
Mr Suchart said, “Mr Nattha did not admit his guilt and denied that he and the tourists walked on the corals.
“I agree that the photos taken by Mr Khanchit are not clear, but he is adamant that he saw Mr Nattha and the tourists step on the corals.
“As we are are unable to conclude this issue today, we will meet again tomorrow afternoon (Mar 23) at Koh Racha Yai with Mr Nattha and Mr Khanchit, who is also a member of a local conservation club, and also representatives from Dragon Dive,” he said.
Speaking to The Phuket News today (Mar 23), Mr Suchart said, “Mr Nattha has finally admitted that he did walk on the corals with the two tourists, and in view of this we will press charges against him and he will face a punishment of no more than one year in prison, a fine of not more than B100,000, or both.
“We will be unable to press charges against the tourists as we believe they have since left the country,” he said.
“I can also confirm that Mr Nattha and Dragon Dive will also face charges for allowing Mr Nattha to work without a permit. However, this is outside of our jurisdiction and will be dealt with by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports,” Mr Suchart added.