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Over 200 former beach operators in Phuket, some in tears, some angry, braced Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut near Provincial Hall in Phuket Town this morning, pleading for his help in getting jobs after three months of unemployment.
With them they brought a list of all the beach umbrella, massage and bucket sales people from every beach in Phuket – a list of more than 1,000 businesses.
“We also do not understand why it is only in Phuket that officials have cleared the beaches. I still see Pattaya beach umbrella people operating as normal,” he added.
“In Karon, we have been on the beach for more than 30 years – before any hotels were built there. We began procedures to register an official umbrella club in 1980, and received official approval in 1986,” he said.
“But when it became popular, they ordered us to move and stop doing what we had always done for a living,” he complained.
“I don’t know how can I find another job to replace this one.” Gov Maitri affirmed that he would try to find solutions to their plight before the coming high season.
“Everything is changing fast during the current reorganisation,” he said. “This may be uncomfortable for some people but they should prepare themselves to accept it.
“It is not a first time I have received this kind of complaint from beach operators. They hand me letters like this every time I inspect beaches,” he added.
“We will try our best to help them by providing similar jobs but in hotels, or by looking for another job for them, or by setting up a [legal] area for them,” he explained.
Asked why only Phuket had had its beaches wiped clean of illegal businesses, he replied, “We are the role model for all beaches in Thailand. Different place have different management. The start that has been made in Phuket may be followed in other provinces.”
Asked about the possibility of managing things in a way that would allow beach operators back onto the beach, he said, “Logically, we can’t do that.”
With the whole country under martial law and gatherings of more than five people in public places banned, The Phuket News asked Col Somchai Ponatong of the Army’s 41st Military Circle how this gathering of 200 people could have taken place,
He replied, “We will not arrest people [who gather] unless they make trouble or annoy other people.
“They just gathering to hand over a letter to the governor; they didn’t bother anyone at this stage. However, everything that was done today was recorded on video. If they had made any trouble, we would have had the evidence to arrest them,” he explained.