The situation regarding beach-based properties and businesses in Phuket must be an incredibly complicated one. It must be. Rarely does a week go by without reporting of an ‘illegal’ restaurant being demolished. However, in the same week and from that same newspaper/news site you are likely to read of the latest property launch that claims to have bettered their competitors with regards to its proximity to the beach.
Surprisingly though, the law and regulation regarding what can and cannot be built on Phuket beaches is actually quite clear. As it stands now, the law states that any property/business within 50 metres of a shoreline is a contravention of said law or agreement between the different parties involved.
And that is where it gets complicated or again it would appear so… In Surin there is a popular beach-based restaurant that offers guests the chance to actually dine on the sand. It has erected a type of wooden barrier reinforcement around and embedded within a portion of the sand around its perimeter to prevent the tide from eroding and wiping out the sand.
This was done to strengthen the sand underneath, so that tables and chairs could be set out and visitors could eat their Tom Yum Goong while the sea laps at their feet. That particular restaurant had operated like this for many years, yet it was late in 2011 when the Orbotor (local council) finally made a visit and when they did, it was not to try the great seafood.
The Orbortor quite quickly decided that the restaurant was encroaching illegally on the sand and that it must dismantle that section of the restaurant immediately. The case did not conclude here however and instead the Amphur (Thalang council) then got involved and after another few weeks of negotiations overruled the Orbotor’s decision and allowed the restaurant to carry on as normal.
A few weeks after all this, Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha pledged that every beach on Phuket would be cleared of illegal businesses. He explained his reasons: “Phuket relies on its natural beauty to sustain tourism and the beaches are the key to tourism.”
As of yet then, even though there may be laws in place and apparent willingness to enforce them, there is still not a definitive regulatory body or board charged with the task of ensuring such measures are upheld and proposed plans approved/denied.
Despite Gov. Tri’s stance and promise, makeshift restaurants that clearly encroach on Phuket beaches are still being erected. The latest of which is one that – like many other metaphorical and literal problems on the island – only comes out at night… This time on Kata beach.
The law therefore is not complicated, the complication lies in how to enforce the existing laws. Or in fact whether tourists who sustain Phuket tourism actually wish it to be enforced. However what do they know? They are only here for 2 weeks a year… Maybe even less in the future…