Thai beaches not recognized as the national treasures they are
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Beaches are responsible for the great majority of the $46 billion that tourism brought to Thailand in 2013. Shouldn't such assets be considered national treasures? Especially when they have the potential to continue as an infinite resource, bringing in huge wealth far into the future?
Some people believe that Thai beaches deserve special protection and should be the subject of careful long-term planning, and perhaps additional protective legislation. But Thai beaches have received virtually no protection during the 30 years since beach tourism began to take off in Thailand – save the recent military-inspired clean-up of Phuket's beaches. The amount of damage and degradation beaches have suffered right across the country is substantial, and in many cases irreversible.
The root cause is buried in cultural and historical prejudices. Past generations of Thais avoided the beach like pestilence, and the beachfront land adjacent to those hot, undesirable zones was considered infertile and low grade. The old story repeated endlessly in Koh Samui and Phuket tells of the black-sheep sons of the family being left the poorest of the family lands, on the beachfront. Since tourism arrived in the 1980s all such beachfront land in Thailand has been transformed into treasure, turning many black-sheep sons and poor coconut farmers into multi-millionaires.
Beachfront land on even the remotest Thai island is now exorbitantly expensive, with huge tracts of it now in the hands of wealthy urban families, big companies and 'land-banking' businesses. The private sector has certainly transformed its thinking about the value of the beach – but when will the government catch up?