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  • 4.000 Baht fine & suspended jail terms for Koh Phangan partygoers

    The 109 people caught partying at Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangnan in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions have been fined

    The post 4.000 Baht fine & suspended jail terms for Koh Phangan partygoers appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    The 109 people caught partying at Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangnan in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions have been fined 4,000 baht each.

    They were also each sentenced to one month in prison, suspended for one year.

    The bar owner and a staff member were each fined 10,000 baht and sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for one year.

    The Koh Samui Provincial Court handed down its judgement on Thursday afternoon via video conference.

    The 111 defendants were at the Koh Phangan district office multi-purpose building. Police took them there instead of the court to reduce the risk of infection. Health officials measured each defendant’s body temperature and they were required to wash their hands with alcohol gel and wear a mask, and they were seated well apart.

    A total of 109 customers were detained – 89 foreigners (38 men and 51 women) and 20 Thais (7 men and 13 women) – when immigration and tourist police and local officials raided the Three Sixty Bar in Koh Phangan district on Tuesday night.

    Also detained were Pongdaran Lim-ochakul, 40, who admitted being the owner and party organiser, and Somsakul Kiartnarong, 47, a bartender.

    Forty bottles of beer and whisky and a notepad were seized.

    Earlier reports said Mr Pongparan admitted only being the owner, while Mr Somsakul admitted being the organiser of the party.

    Pol Col Panya Niratmanon, chief of Koh Phangan police, said on Friday that all defendants were charged with illegal gathering in a crowded venue that posed a risk of disease, violating an order by provincial authorities declaring the province a disease control area, and violating the emergency degree to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

    The owner and the bartender faced additional charges of allowing alcoholic drinks inside the premises in violation of the provincial Covid-19 restrictions.

    Mr Pongdaran said he organised the party but was not aware that the order banning such a gathering was still in force. He thought that because Surat Thai had not recorded a coronavirus case for 14 days, parties and other activities could resume.

    If officials had warned him earlier, he would have cancelled the party, the bar owner said.

    Dmitrii Kopylov, 36, a Russian national, said he was at the party because he thought nothing would happen. He accepted the court ruling and offered his apologies to the Thai people.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post “Fines, suspended jail terms for Koh Phangan partygoers” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Bangkok Post

    The 111 people arrested partying in breach of Covid-19 controls at the Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangan island on Tuesday night were seated well apart when taken to the district office. (Photo: Surat Thani immigration / Supapong Chaolan @ Bangkok Post)

    The post 4.000 Baht fine & suspended jail terms for Koh Phangan partygoers appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    30 January 30 2021
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4294
  • More than 100 people arrested at Koh Phangan party for violating Covid-19 restrictions

    More than 100 people partying in contravention of Covid-19 retrictions were arrested when police and local officials raided a nightspot

    The post More than 100 people arrested at Koh Phangan party for violating Covid-19 restrictions appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    More than 100 people partying in contravention of Covid-19 retrictions were arrested when police and local officials raided a nightspot on Koh Phangan on Tuesday night

    A team of immigration and tourist police and local officials converged on the Three Sixty Bar in Koh Phangan district around 9.30pm.

    They found Thais and foreigners crowded inside the premises, where music was playing and food and alcoholic drinks being served.

    A total of 109 party-goers were detained – 89 foreigners (38 men and 51 women) and 20 Thais (7 men and 13 women).

    Also detained were Pongdaran Lim-ochakul, 40, who admitted being the owner, and Somsakul Kiartnarong, 47, who admitted being the organiser of the party, police said.

    The customers were charged with violating the emergency degree to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Mr Pongdaran and Mr Somsakul were charged with colluding in operating an entertainment venue without permission. All were taken to Koh Phangan police station for legal action.

    Pol Col Suraruek Phankosol, chief of Surat Thani immigration, said police had been alerted to tickets being sold online to a party at the Three Sixty Bar in breach of the law.

    Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto said on Wednesday he had been briefed on the raid.

    He had ordered strict action be taken against the offenders, to send the message that breaches of restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease would not be tolerated.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post “Party-goers arrested on Koh Phangan” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Bangkok Post

    Eighty-nine foreigners and 20 Thais were arrested while partying at the Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangan island on Tuesday night. (Photo: Surat Thani immigration / Supapong Chaolan @ Bangkok Post)

     

    Arrested party-goers seated well apart, after the raid on the Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangan island on Tuesday night. (Photo: Surat Thani immigration / Supapong Chaolan @ Bangkok Post)

    The post More than 100 people arrested at Koh Phangan party for violating Covid-19 restrictions appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    28 January 28 2021
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4290
  • 300 Baht Tourism fee to help insure foreigners visiting Thailand?

    The National Tourism Policy Committee has approved the proposed guidelines for the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from each

    The post 300 Baht Tourism fee to help insure foreigners visiting Thailand? appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    The National Tourism Policy Committee has approved the proposed guidelines for the collection of a 300-baht tourism fee from each international visitor for the management of local tourist destinations.

    The money will also be used to provide insurance benefits to international tourists visiting the country.

    Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said each foreign visitor will be charged US$10 (300 baht) per visit. The details of the fee collection will be announced in the Royal Gazette once the policy has taken effect.

    According to Mr Phiphat, Thailand expects to receive some 10 million visitors this year.

    He said the merit of the 300-baht tourism fee is that foreign tourists who fall sick or are injured will be taken care of and given adequate medical care.

    The ministry will have to discuss the details with the Finance Ministry and the Office of Insurance Commission.

    Of the 300-baht fee, 34 baht is expected to be used for the insurance coverage, Mr Phiphat said.

    The fee collection is in line with the revised National Tourism Policy Act, which authorises the ministry to impose a tourism fee for use in developing local destinations and providing insurance coverage to foreign tourists.

    Tourism permanent secretary Chote Trachu on Thursday said the fee collection was initially due to begin last year, but it was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    He said the National Tourism Policy Committee has assessed the situation and agreed the tourism fee collection should go ahead this year.

    According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the country had been forecast to close last year with merely 6.7 million international tourists, not much more than the number prior to last year’s outbreak of Covid-19, despite government attempts to activate entry schemes for foreigners via Special Tourist Visas (STVs).

    With a second wave of outbreaks gripping many countries around the world, particularly during the winter months, triggering new rounds of lockdowns, Thailand is expected to wait longer, until the second half of this year, to see more visitors file back into the kingdom and revive the ailing industry.

    While the TAT previously predicted the domestic market would reach 100 million trips last year, the recent spike in local cases led the agency to revise down the target to 95 million trips, a result of the partial lockdowns in some provinces.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post “Tourism fee to help insure foreigners visiting Thailand” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Bangkok Post

    Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said each foreign visitor will be charged US$10 (300 baht) per visit. Of the 300-baht fee, 34 baht is expected to be used for the insurance coverage of foreign visitors. Photo credit @ Bangkok Post

    The post 300 Baht Tourism fee to help insure foreigners visiting Thailand? appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    17 January 17 2021
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4285
  • Lost Spanish couple rescued in Koh Phangan forest

    A Spanish couple became lost after going for a walk in a hilly forest on Koh Phangan and called for

    The post Lost Spanish couple rescued in Koh Phangan forest appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    A Spanish couple became lost after going for a walk in a hilly forest on Koh Phangan and called for help, and were found after a six-hour search that extended late into the night.

    The island’s tourist assistant centre was informed by Tourist Police Hotline 1155 on Thursday around 4.30pm that two Spanish tourists who went to Khao Ra viewpoint in tambon Koh Phangan had become lost in the forest.

    A 50-member team of local and tourist police, national park officials and rescue workers was assembled and began a search for the lost couple.

    More than six hours later, a relieved Jose Vicente Landuce, 41, and his wife Esther De La Fluente Hermandez, 39, were found near the waterfall stream, around 11pm. The couple were safe, with no injuries.

    They told police they went to Khao Ra viewpoint around 9am on Thursday and left in he afternoon, intending to return to their accommodation. Instead, they became lost in the forest.

    Mr Vicente had phoned the Tourist Police Hotline 1155, seeking help.

    The couple thanked all those involved in helping them.

    Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto praised the rescuers for their swift action.

    Officials were ready to provide assistance to visitors at all times, despite the outbreak of Covid-19, the governor said.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post “Lost Spanish couple found in Koh Phangan forest” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Bangkok Post

    Rescuers find the Spanish couple who were lost in the forest on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani on Thursday. The search lasted more than six hours, concluding late Thursday night. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan @ Bangkok Post)

    The post Lost Spanish couple rescued in Koh Phangan forest appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    15 January 15 2021
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4279
  • More than 100 foreigners ripped off in education visa scam on Koh Phangan

    A language school in Koh Phangan has ripped off more than 100 tourists claiming that they were able to issue

    The post More than 100 foreigners ripped off in education visa scam on Koh Phangan appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    A language school in Koh Phangan has ripped off more than 100 tourists claiming that they were able to issue them with a 1 year education visa.

    A group of the victims have made an official report with the local police over the scam. The tourists were from the US, UK, Germany, France and Russia. Manager Online report that more than 100 people had been allegedly conned by the school in the Sri Thanu area of the island. The report explained that the people had originally heard about the school being able to get them a 1 year education visa from teachers working there.

    The group have now made an official report, sending documentation to Koh Phangan district chief Poonsak Sophonpathumrak and the island’s chief of police Pol Col Phisit Wisetwong and Immigration police.

    They allege that they had been asked for 40,000 baht each for courses at the school on the understanding that the school would issue visas for them, changing their Non-B into an ED-Visa, as a way of extending their time in Thailand.

    They told police that they had put down a 50% down payment to the school. Their visas were promised five weeks ago. But when no paperwork turned up they headed to the mainland Surat Thani immigration office where they were told it wasn’t possible to change a Non-B into an education (ED) visa. When they confronted the school they were told there would be no refunds.

    This isn’t the only case of institutions and bogus visa agents taking advantage of the current confusion on visa amnesties and extensions. Immigration police are sorting through a range of similar cases.

    Police assure the victims that they are investigation the case.

    Thank you to Manager Online “นักท่องเที่ยวถูกหลอกต่อวีซ่านักเรียนให้พักอาศัยในไทยได้ 1 ปี ร้องตำรวจเกาะพะงันช่วยเหลือ” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Manager Online

    The post More than 100 foreigners ripped off in education visa scam on Koh Phangan appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    1 November 01 2020
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4271
  • Koh Phangan voted ‘third best’ island in Asia

    Koh Phangan has been voted the third best island in Asia, according to the readers’ choice awards by travel magazine

    The post Koh Phangan voted ‘third best’ island in Asia appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    Koh Phangan has been voted the third best island in Asia, according to the readers’ choice awards by travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler.

    Provincial governor Wichawut Jinto on Wednesday said that Koh Phangan has been hailed as one of the best islands in the world. It was rated among the “five best tourist islands in Asia”. Topping the chart were Cebu and the Visayan Islands in the Philippines.

    Mr Wichawut said the magazine presented Had Rin Nok beach on Koh Phangan where more than 30,000 mostly foreign tourists attend full moon party nights. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has halted the parties.

    The governor said Koh Phangan had more to offer than the full moon party. He said the island boasts a blend of nightlife and beautiful natural scenery. The beach is a perfect cove flanked by mountains.

    Tourists can fly to Koh Samui and catch a ferry to the island, he said.

    Another popular option is to book a combined bus and ferry ticket from Bangkok to Koh Phangan. This cheaper alternative is especially popular with backpackers who visit the island for its’ world famous full moon parties.

    He said Koh Phangan also has other beautiful beaches — such as Thong Nai Pan, Haad Khuad and Haad Yao beaches. Apart from the beaches, Than Sadet waterfall is also a landmark attraction.

    The governor gave his assurance that medical facilities on Koh Phangan are adequately equipped with healthcare services amid concerns of any fresh outbreak of Covid-19.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post  “Phangan voted ‘third best’ island” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    More info: Best islands in the world, according to the Readers’ Choice Awards 2020 | CN Traveller

    The post Koh Phangan voted ‘third best’ island in Asia appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    29 October 29 2020
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4267
  • Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan apologises for Angkor Wat facade

    Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan has issued an apology after Cambodian netizens were outraged by its use of Cambodian

    The post Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan apologises for Angkor Wat facade appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan has issued an apology after Cambodian netizens were outraged by its use of Cambodian cultural icons, including the famous Angkor Wat, as building decoration, which they deemed inappropriate.

    “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused you and would like to clarify the vision from our founder’s heart and intention,” Le Palais Hotel wrote on its Facebook page on Sunday.

    “Le Palais Hotel Koh Phangan was inspired by the greatness of Angkor Wat located in Cambodia. Cambodia is the motherland of our founder and always has a special place in his heart. Thailand is the second home where he found the peace of mind in the land of smile.”

    “We launched the hotel humbly only for the admiration, appreciation and passion for the magnificent art. The construction, decoration here were hand & heart-made by Thai and Cambodian teamwork. Nonetheless the greatness will always remain to the great Angkor Wat and will never be compared.”

    Khmer Times reported on Friday that Cambodian social media was awash with criticisms of the Koh Phangan hotel, with netizens slamming the Le Palais Hotel for appropriating Khmer culture and landmarks – including the famed Angkor Wat temple complex – for commercial purposes.

    In response to the outrage, Surat Thani’s Culture Office yesterday said it has launched a probe into the allegations of cultural misappropriation by the hotel, which is located on Haad Rin beach, known for its full moon parties.

    Angkor Wat, recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1992, is the most renowned out of all Cambodia’s temples and is featured on its national flag.

    Located in Siem Reap province, the vast temple is a part of the Angkor Archaeological Park, an even larger complex of ruins which were built at various points between the ninth and fifteenth centuries.

    Le Palais Hotel could not be reached for further comment, but the Bangkok Post found it has been closed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and looked after by its neighbours. The hotel is owned by a Cambodian couple of whom the husband has obtained French nationality, and a Thai shareholder.

    Vichai Khongmun, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Phangan, said the hotel, built in 2014, complies with building regulations.

    “The owners might draw their inspiration from Angkor Wat. I think it will encourage tourists to visit the real place,” he said.

    Thank you to Bangkok Post  “Hotel apologises for Angkor Wat facade” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Le Palais Hotel

    Le Palais Hotel Koh Phangan
    A picture of a restaurant on the website of the Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan shows its ‘Bayon Restaurant’ which features a touch of Khmer and European culture in the design of the hotel.

    The post Le Palais Hotel in Koh Phangan apologises for Angkor Wat facade appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    5 October 05 2020
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4263
  • Police raid Marijuana Farm on Koh Phangan

    Police on Thursday said they are looking for those responsible for an illicit marijuana farm on a popular tourist island

    The post Police raid Marijuana Farm on Koh Phangan appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    Police on Thursday said they are looking for those responsible for an illicit marijuana farm on a popular tourist island of Koh Phangan.

    Around 40 plants, weighed at 60 kilograms in total, were seized this morning when police raided an 1-rai (0.3 acre) farm hidden in the woods, Lt. Col. Thanawat Sukhata, deputy chief of Koh Phangan Police Station, said.

    “The plants didn’t grow naturally,” Thanawat offered an insight into the investigation. “There were watering pots, garden hoses, and fertilizers. This suggests they must be planted by someone.”

    Police said the cannabis farm was put under surveillance for a month after they were tipped by a local, though no one has yet been marked for arrest since investigators could not see anyone entering the illicit marijuana farm.

    After a long wait, police decided to seize the ganja plants and took them to the police station.

    The deputy superintendent said police will summon nearby landowners for information since the farm sits on a protected forest.

    Thank you to Khao Sod English  “Party’s Over, Folks! Police Raid Pot Farm on Koh Phangan” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Khao Sod English

    Police raid marijuana farm Koh Phangan
    Police raid marijuana farm Koh Phangan – Photo credit @ MGR Online

    The post Police raid Marijuana Farm on Koh Phangan appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    3 September 03 2020
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4255
  • Two foreigners in custody for fun-selfies with marine life off Koh Phangan island

    Two foreigners – a Hungarian and a Dutch man – were arrested for picking up sea animals off Koh Phangan

    The post Two foreigners in custody for fun-selfies with marine life off Koh Phangan island appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    Two foreigners – a Hungarian and a Dutch man – were arrested for picking up sea animals off Koh Phangan island to take selfies and a video and posting these on social media, a move that sparked widespread criticism from netizens.

    “We tracked down the suspects and identified them as Attila Ott, a Hungarian national, and Francesco Simonetti, from the Netherlands,” Department of Marine and Coastal Resources director-general Sophon Thongdee said. “Ott is a diving instructor and owner of Pink Panther Scuba Dive Club on Koh Phangan, while Simonetti is a chef at Il Barracuda Restaurant & BBQ, also on Koh Phangan island.”

    The two reportedly confessed to snapping pictures and taking a video with sea animals at Salad Beach on Koh Phangan and posted these on the internet.

    Francesco Simonetti Koh Phangan

    Salad Beach is a protected area, which makes their actions punishable by a maximum fine of Bt100,000 or one-year imprisonment, or both,” said Sophon.

    “Officials also investigated the suspects’ travel history and fined Simonetti for failing to notify immigration officials within 24 hours after changing his address. Meanwhile, Kritiyaporn Khamsing, Ott’s wife, was also fined for failing to notify immigration officials in 24 hours after taking in an immigrant who was allowed to stay in Thailand temporarily,” he said.

    “If you find any offenders of marine and coastal resources, please contact call centre 1310 immediately,” Sophon urged the public.

    Thank you to The Nation Thailand  “ Two foreigners in custody after clicking selfies with sea animals off Koh Pha Ngan” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ The Nation Thailand

    The post Two foreigners in custody for fun-selfies with marine life off Koh Phangan island appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    2 September 02 2020
    High Alert
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4249
  • Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand

    Conservation activists warn economic reboot could exacerbate environmental problems! It is 9 a.m. on a sultry Sunday morning off the

    The post Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.


    Conservation activists warn economic reboot could exacerbate environmental problems!

    It is 9 a.m. on a sultry Sunday morning off the coast of Koh Phangan, a popular tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand. More than 30 divers are getting ready to plunge into the tropical waters — not to marvel at the underwater world but to spend the day removing kilometers of abandoned fishing nets that lie on the ocean floor, snagged on rocks and coral and suffocating marine life.

    These weekly diving trips are organized by Sitthiroj Kaenongsamed, a local diver and environmental activist. “The first time just three of us retrieved 700 kg of nets,” says Sitthiroj. “We realized that there are a lot of nets down there and we keep finding new ones.”

    The activists now work with volunteer dive professionals and the Center for Oceanic Research and Education, a local nongovernmental organization known as COREsea. Local businesses donate food and water, and Thailand’s Department of Marine Coastal Research provides gasoline for the boats and air refills for the divers’ tanks.

    Dive boat operators and divers have time to help clean up the coast because tourism in Thailand’s Gulf islands has largely disappeared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the neighboring islands of Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Koh Tao welcomed more than 3 million visitors. Since April, the tourists have gone and the region’s ecosystem has been breathing a sigh of relief. But long-term plans are needed to tackle environmental pollution and the eventual return of large numbers of visitors to the islands.

    Since tourism dried up, reports of encounters with wild or rare animals have been frequent. Elephants have emerged from the jungle, while sharks, otters and herds of dugong — not seen locally for decades — have made bold appearances on the seashore. Rare leatherback turtles have laid eggs for the first time in years on several beaches on Koh Samui. Off Koh Phangan, local fishermen filmed pink dolphins around their boat.

    Even before the pandemic Thailand’s government had started taking modest steps to protect marine biodiversity hotspots. Maya Bay, in the Phi Phi islands, was closed two years ago and is not expected to reopen until 2021. In June, the Ministry of National Resources and Environment announced that all the country’s national parks would be closed for two months a year to give nature some time to recover.

    Stefan Follows of the Center for Oceanic Research and Education, or COREsea, on Koh Phangan.(Photo by Tom Vater @ Nikkei Asian Review)

    However, Stefan Follows of COREsea says wildlife sightings are not a sign of environmental recovery. “To be clear, nature is not coming back, it is coming out of hiding. Monkeys, turtles and dolphins have become more visible because there are less people, life and noise pollution.”

    According to Follows, the main environmental issues plaguing the Gulf islands are their mountains of trash and a lack of fresh water after years of uncontrolled development. “While some glass and plastic is recycled, the rest goes into landfills, on the islands or on the mainland in Surat Thani Province. While it’s good to get the garbage off the islands, this causes yet another footprint.”

    Jintamard Sinlapaprommard, who works for both the regional environmental office and Eco Thailand, another NGO, agrees that solid waste garbage remains a challenge. “People collect plastic on the islands, but there’s no money to separate this waste because prices for recycling have collapsed,” she says. “As a result, much of it is currently burned.”

    Water is an even more pressing issue, says Follows. “Koh Tao no longer has fresh water and brings in a couple of boat loads a week from Koh Phangan, which suffers sinking groundwater levels but remains self-sufficient. Koh Samui now has a pipeline from the mainland. No one is collecting rainwater.”

    Follows suggests charging visitors directly for their water consumption, “Tourists don’t realize that water is a finite resource. To help people understand to be mindful of the amount they use you need to charge them. This can be done by installing water meters in tourist accommodation.”

    Local diver and activist Sitthiroj Kaenongsamed organizes regular dive trips to free the coral reefs of Koh Phangan of miles of snagged nets. “We can’t just dive and enjoy the nature,” he says. “We have to do something for the marine wildlife’s future.” (Photo by Tom Vater @ Nikkei Asian Review)

    Sinlapaprommard details the modest official regulations: “We monitor water quality and advise local authorities; we check how hotels with more than 60 rooms process their wastewater, and warn them if their systems are not adequate. Some properties on Koh Samui and in Surat Thani have been fined. But we don’t see much investment from smaller hotels beyond septic tanks.”

    Both agree that too much tourism is not sustainable. “When the COVID-19 crisis winds down, tourism authorities should push for quality rather than quantity. The country could benefit from fewer visitors,” says Follows.

    Sinlapaprommard says there are already too many hotels on the islands. “On Koh Samui there’s no more room for anything other than resorts,” she says. “And yet local people clear more land to build more and make more money. So conservation is difficult.”

    Koh Tao faces similar overcrowding issues. Kirsty Magson is a marine biologist and has been the conservation instructor at New Heaven Dive School on the island since 2015. New Heaven offers a plethora of conservation courses as well as internships for budding marine conservationists. It is also engaged in hands-on cleanup projects, and contributes data to CoralWatch, a not-for-profit citizen science program based at Australia’s University of Queensland that carries out long-term monitoring of reef topography and biodiversity.

    “There are 58 dive schools on Koh Tao,” says Magson. “On an island of 21 sq. km they have a substantial impact on the environment. Day trips from other islands add even more divers and don’t follow the same regulations as shops based on Koh Tao. We don’t know how to reduce the number of dive shops; that has to be regulated by the government.”

    A sign advertising a multi-use metal water bottle initiative by Trash-Hero in Thong Sala, on Koh Phangan. (Photo by Laure Siegel @ Nikkei Asian Review)

    Magson says there are too many divers even though visitor numbers declined from 500,000 in 2018 to 350,000 last year. “Since 2015 coral abundance and diversity has decreased in some places while there’s life and recovery in other areas. It’s a mixed bag. There have been talks about the closure of beaches, but Koh Tao is not a marine park where this can be enforced. For sure, we would like to stop people from diving in certain places, but then they would just move to other spots if the entire area is not protected.”

    COVID-19 has stopped the dive industry in its tracks, but the challenges of the island’s boom remain. “Even now, there is construction going on,” says Magson. “Erosion, building work, weather patterns, wave influence and sedimentation have clearly had an impact on visibility, which has been bad for extended periods.”

    The dive industry does appear to have realized the need to protect the island’s main source of income, and some businesses and organizations are running beach and reef cleanups, including New Heaven, Eco Koh Tao, Trash Hero and Island Travel.

    A garbage-strewn beach on Koh Phangan’s west coast. With many resorts closed and staff made redundant, some beaches on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are covered in plastic debris, mostly dropped by fishing boats. (Photo by Laure Siegel @ Nikkei Asian Review )

    On Koh Samui, Lutz Mueller, general manager of the Anantara Bophut resort, says that even Thailand’s recently lifted nationwide curfew had an adverse environmental impact. “During COVID-19, many restaurants switched to delivery and the amount of packaging generated as a consequence is mad,” he says.

    Mueller argues that large hotel brands and local authorities have shown environmental commitment to slowing the effects of mass tourism in recent years. “Smoking has been banned on some of the island’s beaches for a couple of years,” he says. “Many hotels, including Anantara, have phased out plastic bottles. All our food, except for some of our meat, is sourced in Thailand. We produce our own compost and fertilizer. Our plant waste goes to feed local elephants and we promote elephant friendly and species-appropriate activities, such as visits to elephant sanctuaries.”

    Mueller says the break in tourism is “an opportunity to change our business model, but it is also a risk to take the wrong turn. If everybody agrees not to drop prices too much, we can change the face of tourism on Koh Samui for the better.”

    Divers pick through nets they have brought up from the sea floor for snagged bits of coral and other sea life, which is thrown back in the water. (Photo by Tom Vater @ Nikkei Asian Review)

    However, with rates down 70% to attract domestic tourists — and the risk of a regional price war to tempt foreign tourists at any cost — conservation may take a back seat. “There is still a lot of construction happening, such as villas, which are the last thing we need here,” says Mueller. “They will attract people who look for privacy in the post-COVID age, but the island’s infrastructure can no longer support this growth.”

    Sinlapaprommard adds, “It’s a question of education. That’s why Eco Thailand takes schoolchildren on field trips to learn about respect of the environment, connections between trees and animals, and to get a better appreciation of nature.

    “There are kids in Thailand who cannot identify a coconut. And if people don’t learn to appreciate what their country has, they will only think about how to make money out of our natural resources. And they will get their food in 7-Eleven.”

    Thank you to Nikkei Asian Review  “Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand” which was brought to us by Google Alerts.

    Photo credit @ Nikkei Asian Review, Tom Vater, Laure Siegel & Stefan Follows

    Divers clean reefs off the coast of the Thai island of Koh Phangan. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Follows @ Nikkei Asian Review)

     

    Fishing boats in Chaloklum, Koh Phangan. (Photo by Tom Vater @ Nikkei Asian Review)

    The post Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand appeared first on Koh Phangan Island News.

    7 August 07 2020
    General News
    https://kohphangannews.org/?p=4236