the local people present the biggest danger to Kata Beach and its environment
It's ironic, and sad, that the people who do the most damage to Thailand's beaches are the very people who get the most benefit from them, the locals who make a living off them.
Here on Kata Beach it was the same until Thailand’s military government took drastic action in 2014, banning all private businesses from Phuket’s public beaches. The beach vendors who had overwhelmed most of Kata’s sands with forests of umbrellas and heavy sun lounges protested loudly, but there was general public support for the move to reclaim the beaches and help restore their natural beauty.
As the images here show, Kata Beach today looks much cleaner and more natural than in the recent past when covered with beach furniture. Some visitors miss the comfort of the beach lounges and being served cold drinks while sleeping on the beach. The major problem with the old system was, ultimately, the attitude of the vendors, who paid local officials for the right to occupy specific patches of beach. Many had come to consider the beach ‘theirs’, even chasing away people who did not want to pay for the right to use ‘their’ portion of the beach. After some videos clips of beach vendors chasing tourists off their patches of beach went viral on social media, the Thai public supported the military government’s moves to claim back the beach for everyone’s free use.
Other Phuket beaches, like Bang Tao Beach had suffered even more. Local people had built large concrete restaurants and shops right in the sand. This was illegal squatting on public lands, something of an old tradition in Thailand. The authorities had to bring in heavy construction equipment to remove these and restore the beaches to their natural state.