12 October 2017
Thai authorities have announced details of a scheme which will see smoking banned on a number of beaches in Thailand. The pilot scheme is set to be launched next month (November 2017).
Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Resources Department say the decision was prompted by a recent survey on Patong Beach in Phuket which showed a high number of cigarette butts discarded in the sand. However, the survey only covered a small sample area of less than 10 square metres and the extrapolated figures produced by marine authorities are contentious. Despite that, the smoking ban is set to come into effect with little advance warning and may catch out visitors to Thai beaches. And because the ban is being based on marine park law, the punishments are severe. In theory, offenders could be punished with a fine up to a maximum of 100,000 Baht or even a jail sentence.
The smoking ban will be viewed by some as a positive step in the right direction, but others will regard this as a soft target instead of tackling bigger issues of pollution and anti-social behaviour witnessed on some Thai beaches. The announcement of the scale of the fines has also left critics wondering abut the motives for the smoking ban.
There is already talk that the ban could be extended to more beaches if the pilot scheme is deemed successful. Authorities are also assessing whether the smoking ban should be applied to passenger and tourist boats. The beaches and areas where the initial smoking ban will apply:
- Bang Saen
- Cha Am
- Chanthaburi (Laem Singh)
- Chumphon (Sairee Beach)
- Hua Hin and Khao Takiab
- Ko Lanta (Phra Ae and Khlong Dao)
- Ko Samui (Bophut Beach)
- Ko Si Chang (Tham Phang)
- Pattani (Wa Sukri Beach)
- Pattaya and Jomtien
- Phang Nga (Ko Khai Nok, Ko Khai Nai and Ko Yao)
- Phuket (Patong Beach)
- Rayong (Mae Phim Beach)
- Songkhla (Chalatas Beach)
In July 2014, the military government ordered a clean-up of Phuket beaches. As part of that campaign, sun loungers and beach umbrellas were removed. That led to a series of complaints from unhappy tourists which ultimately resulted in a relaxation of the regulations with sun loungers and umbrellas returning to the beaches of Phuket in February 2017. It will be interesting to see how Thai and overseas tourists react to the smoking ban and whether Thai authorities are again forced into a rethink.