This article in the Phuket Wan News describes what has been happening  to sunbeds on the beaches of Phuket ever since the Thai military took over the country in 2014. They have all but disappeared!

Essentially the military ordered the clearing of all commercial activities from Thai beaches. But now beach workers in Phuket want their sunbeds back. Things have reached such a state there that a university team of researchers is investigating the problems and plan to devise a solution.

Here is what the article has to say about  this Phuket beach madness:

We need more time,” Dr Pan Thongchumnum of Prince of Songkhla University told Phuketwanyesterday. ”New points are being made as we talk to stakeholders.” …………

However, European tourists usually decide where to go for November-January holidays about now – so some will be looking at other destinations apart from Phuket unless the vexed beach chair issue is resolved quickly. …………..

The university is doing the research voluntarily without any initial expertise on beach management. …………..

Strangest of the decisions made since then has been a total ban on sunbeds and beach chairs, which means that veteran European visitors who have been coming to Phuket for decades have been forced to make do with mats at sand level. ………………

The Europeans have also been banned from bringing their own sunbeds, beach chairs and umbrellas – with Governor Nisit Jansomwong declaring that only 10 percent of each beach can be used for umbrellas, mats and commercial activities………………………

The  original concept of the beaches being kept clear so their natural beauty could be seen would have worked if tourists had been allowed to bring their own equipment and use it anywhere they like.

Instead, regimented ranks are required – but of mats and umbrellas only. European visitors – not used to sitting at ground level like their Asian contemporaries – mourn the ban on sunbeds and say it’s discriminatory……

Phuketwan understands that a small group representing the views of the beach-loving tourists was finally asked to put its perspective to Dr Pan and his research team earlier this week.

Well excuse me but what a crazy state of affairs! Phuket beach madness indeed! I know Thailand well having spent nearly two years of my life there. Yes, it has its idiosyncrasies but this takes the biscuit.

As the article says most Europeans prefer sun beds or loungers when spending a day at the beach. Indeed for people like me with an arthritic hip, it really is the most comfortable way of being able to get up and down in a relatively pain free way.

A suspicion lingers with me that there is an underlying motive behind the decision of the military to try to regulate these beach activities.

On the busiest beaches such as Patong, Karon and Kamala many of the  beach businesses were de facto illegal. I was given to understand that the operators did not have the necessary permits. The beach activities were overseen by the local police and in order to carry on trading unmolested it has been alleged that the illegal vendors often had to pay bribes to the police.

Once the military took over they undertook to try and eliminate many of these alleged corrupt practices.  They took a hammer to the nut and banned most forms of trading on the beaches.

Of course what no one took into account were the views of the many tourists who flock to the beaches of Phuket every year.

Tourism is a very important source of income for many Thais. Indeed without it many of them would have to return to their impoverished northern homeland of the Isaan region. It is not only the beach vendors that rely on tourists. The restaurants, bars and market places would be rapidly emptied without the farang presence.

Thailand is a wonderful country populated by wonderful people and has wonderful food.  But there has been a distinct lack of joined up thinking here as regards tourism and the ordinary Thai person deserves better than  the leadership they are currently experiencing.

Feature Photo Credit
TH Phuket – Patong Beach“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.