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In a massive operation that could transform Koh Samet the mafia on the island is being booted out.
Samet – that has been a national park only in name – is now being reclaimed by the state from the mafia who have run protection rackets for years with the connivance of the local park chief and subordinates, reports Thairath.
New officials were all over the island yesterday.
Now it has emerged that the park chief has been removed along with a staggering 80 allegedly corrupt staff in league with the mafia and people of influence to effectively rob the state of revenue.
The dramatic moves come as the tourist season beckons.
Central national Park officials said the clear out relates to businesses that were exploiting the island illegally to generate some 100 million baht in income per month.
Some 660 motorbikes, 100 speedboats, jetski operated banana boats, illegal beach massage operations and even food sellers peddling their wares have all had their operations stopped immediately.
Vehicles and boats have been impounded.
It was said that only one speedboat had permission to operate.
Authorities said that jetskis and speedboats were all banned and represented a danger to swimmers.
Seven jetties have been shut down. Only two will remain that will be monitored closely by a new set of park officials.
It was reported yesterday that following the removal of Thanit Janthadech who was head of the Koh Samet National Park and 80 staff revenue for October increased dramatically.
He was stripped of his job in September. revenue from tourists in October 2016 was 4.8 million baht compared to 1.2 million from October 2015.
Nathapon Ratanaphan of the National Park authority revealed that every area of the islands business was being controlled by the mafia and influential figures.
Massage shops paid 500 baht a month to be allowed to run – there were 179 of those. Food sellers, taxis, face painters, fire show performers all had to pay the mafia.
Nathapon said that at least 40 percent was being skimmed off the island’s revenue by the mafia operating at jetties and ports.
He said that a steady stream of people had been calling him to say they know a big policeman, a big and important soldier or an influential politician. He said he listens then has told everyone “no can do”.
“Samet is now being reclaimed as a National Park,” he said adding that 61 businesses that have illegally encroached on 10 kilometers of the island’s beaches will be torn down.
Tourist businesses will be zoned to protect the environment and all businesses will need to be properly registered.
He promised continuing tough action and many court cases before the matter is finally resolved.
In addition, all beach umbrellas and seating if not already removed will be cleared up and banned.