V/Gov Chokdee and Lt Col Somphop Kamkana of the Royal Thai Navy had arrived to meet with the vendors to hear their grievances firsthand.
The beach-management system, which quickly became known as the “10% rule”, was introduced by previous Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong in January.
The rule requires that all beaches in Phuket have 10% of the beach area reserved for local vendors so they can rent out beach mats, umbrellas, serve food, provide massages and offer other services on the beach.
At Ley Phang, however, no 10% zone has been set.
“We still cannot do any business on Ley Phang Beach. Any locals who set up any business on the beach will be arrested,” said a representative of the Ley Phang Beach Vendors Group who declined to be named.
The group was formed at the request of previous Governor Nisit as way of giving the local vendors a single voice to express their concerns to local authorities, a factor that the representative says has become moot.
“We have done everything that they have asked us to do. We have almost 100 members, but the group is useless,” she said.
“We are local people who just want to make a living, but we cannot work on the beach, while some resorts and hotels can serve their customers right on the sand.”
Fellow vendor Narasak Thavornjitr, who is still fighting a beach-encroachment charge in court, said he doesn’t understand why local vendors can make a living at other beaches.
“In Patong, I think the beach vendors occupy more than the 10% that they are allowed,” he said.
Col Sompop of the Royal Thai Navy explained that the beach must be cleared of all occupants before the 10% zone can be established.
“At Ley Phang, there are still a few bars and restaurants that need to be removed before we can set up the 10% zone,” he said.
According to Navy sources, the offending businesses being targeted are Tony restaurant, Beach bar, Paul Bar & Restaurant, Reggae bar.
“Right now most of their cases are still being heard in the court, but we will not wait for the court to rule on this,” said Col Sompop.
“We are collecting more evidence and will ask permission from the Governor to remove these businesses as soon as possible.”
V/Gov Chokdee told the vendors that he needed more time to resolve all the problems people face under the beach-management system.
“Each beach has different problems, and the beach-management committee will resolve these problems as fast as we can,” he said.
“Please calm down. We will discuss your problems with the Governor at the next meeting. We will also set up a committee at each beach so that local people can resolve their own problems. We will do this as fast as we can,” V/Gov Chokdee assured.