Keep beaches public

Keep beaches public

The public's reaction to a foreigner accused of kicking a female doctor who sat stargazing in front of his swanky Phuket villa is a reflection of the deep frustration over the unchecked tourism and land development on the tourist island.

Many local people over the weekend gathered at Yamu Beach in Phuket's Thalang district to rally for the reclamation of public beaches or to condemn the actions of the Swiss man Urs "David" Fehr.

The 45-year-old expat has become semi persona non grata after being accused of using insulting words and kicking Dr Thandao Chandam, who works at Dibuk Hospital in Phuket, as she and her friend were stargazing from a step in front of his villa on Feb 24.

It turns out that a step of the villa where the doctor and her friend was seated wass illegally built on Yamu Beach, which is a public space, and now local police have ordered that the wide concrete step be removed.

The situation regarding the use of land that helped lead to this incident is not uncommon.

Beaches along Thailand's coastal provinces -- except areas situated in national parks -- are public spaces accessible by any individuals, but it has become a near normal practice that hotels and some private residences try to restrict the public's use of beaches.

Most of the kingdom's tourist beaches -- such as those where private landowners managed to acquire land plots adjacent to beaches -- often have these problems.

In the case of Hua Hin beach and several beaches in Phuket and Krabi, the majority of plots along beaches are privately owned.

These private owners built their houses and buildings that have subsequently hindered public access to the beaches.

Despite these landowners breaking no laws, such land development technically gives them quasi-exclusive access to public beaches.

It all brings up a number of questions, such as: What is the solution? What is a sustainable way to put ensure public access at beaches and prevent private landowners grabbing public land?

Respected coastal ecologist Sakanan Plathong -- a lecturer with the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science at Prince of Songkla University -- has warned that the grabbing of public beach land will worsen unless the Harbour Department that oversees coastal land and beaches in all 23 coastal provinces does something.

The department decades ago placed white demarcation markers in some coastal areas in coastal provinces to define the starting point of public beach areas.

But the only problem is that no one even knows or has found out where these markers are. A lack of clear legal demarcating signs only gives way to false claims -- unknowingly in some cases.

Instead of letting conservationists and local people launch campaigns to reclaim public beaches from investors or rich foreigners, the Harbour Department should do its job better by making it clear where public beach demarcation lines are.

The government also needs to carry out inspections to check on the construction projects that are going up on the public beaches along the country's coastlines.

The angst should not stop with this particular incident in Phuket, which has upset so many. Concern should be extended to all public beaches.

Failing to solve the public beach issue means more people will be chased away on beaches that belong to everyone.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?