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Silence falls on plan to close ’selfie beach’ near Phuket Airport

PHUKET: Airports of Thailand (AoT) management at Phuket International Airport have still yet to make any public announcement to confirm – or even clarify – the possible closure of the beach at the end of the runway due to safety concerns, despite holding a meeting to define the boundaries of the expanded safety zone last Thursday (Mar 14).

tourismtransportSafety
By The Phuket News

Monday 18 March 2019, 01:42PM


Plans to close the beach to tourists were made plain nearly two weeks ago, but now all is silent on what will be done. Photo: The Phuket News /file

Plans to close the beach to tourists were made plain nearly two weeks ago, but now all is silent on what will be done. Photo: The Phuket News /file

The area for decades has been one of the most sought-after places for an iconic selfie taken while on holiday in Phuket.

Public relations staff for Airports of Thailand (AoT), which operates Phuket International Airport, told The Phuket News this morning (Mar 18), “We don’t know the details from the meeting, which was held with the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).”

The public relations staffer, who declined to named, suggested that The Phuket News contact the Airport Safety Standards unit at the airport for more information. That office also had no details to provide on whether or not the popular section of beach would be closed.

A staffer at Airport Safety Standards unit, who also asked not to be named, said she was unaware of any details of the apparently imminent beach closure.

“We don’t know. We will contact you with updated information back as soon as possible.” the staffer said.

News that the safety zone around the airport was to be expanded broke after a safety meeting was held on Mar 6.

After the meeting, Vijit Keawsaitiam, AoT Executive Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Phuket International Airport (Operations and Maintenance Group), announced that the “safety zone” around the airport will be expanded.

“The new safety zone near the runway is being developed and will soon take effect,” he said.

“Under the initial guidelines discussed, we are setting up a safety zone which will be categorised as a strictly prohibited area that does not allow people and tourists to take pictures,” Mr Vijit explained.

“Aside from this area, local people and tourists can still come to take pictures as usual,” he added.

“The airport wants to boost tourism revenues, but at the same time, it must make sure there will not be any problem with aviation regulations. Tourism and safety must co-exist,” Mr Vijit said.

Of note, Mr Vijit pointed out that the meeting held on Mar 6 was held to determine aviation safety in order to meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which provides monitoring and evaluation of operations according to various regulatory frameworks.

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However, Mr Vijit did not clarify exactly which areas are to be closed off, and no one at the airport has been willing to confirm any details of the plan to The Phuket News.

Winai Sae-io, headman of OTOP Village at Moo 4 Mai Khao, told The Phuket News that it was explained at the meeting on Mar 6 that the goal was to have 150 metres of either side of the runway kept clear.

Mr Winai also pointed out that local residents had objected to the plan as many of them rely on tourists visiting the beach for their livelihoods.

Mr Winai represents local residents who work under a community project set up by the Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor).

The project provides jobs for local residents who transport tourists from a local council car park further north along the beach road to the iconic beach area. Local residents also operate food stalls at the site.

“I don’t agree with the plan… At the meeting I asked that they inspect the area before making a decision about the area to be closed off,” Mr Winai said.

“This will impact local tourism in our area. If the beach is closed, we will have serious problems because many tourists simply will not come. I want AsoT to look at us and support locals in making living here too,” he said.

“I am waiting for an official appointment for us to and inspect the area together to see our local tourism activities,” Mr Winai added.

Following the latest meeting held last Thursday (Mar 14), Mr Winai has heard noting.

“I am still waiting for Phuket International Airport management committee to call me for a meeting,” Mr Winai told The Phuket News this morning.

“Now they are just silent. I don’t know when they will explain about the safety zone, which which will have a direct impact on local people and any tourists wanting to take selfies on that part of the beach,” he said.

 

 

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Kurt | 19 March 2019 - 12:32:53

Of course "silence falls". Self declared important officials talks from a aircon office to get named in a press article , wow, that makes your day. with swollen chest. But making yourself ridiculous with official talk about death penalty doesn't make people feel good about such a official. After all, this is Thailand, not known for law respecting people.  So, no witch hunt on tourist...

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