KOH SAMET — The sight of beach-goers bouncing along the surf atop a large, yellow inflatable may be a thing of the past.
A reshuffle of park officials to cut corruption has led to a raft of new rules announced Friday for the party island of Samet, a popular Bangkok escape, including a ban on banana boating and parasailing near the beach.
The island is part of a marine national park, and in addition to banning beach activities in the Khao Laem Ya – Mu Ko Samet National Park, all illegal piers must be demolished with boats only allowed to stop at the official pier operated by Rayong provincial authorities.
“The boats used to drop tourists off directly at the beach in front of the resorts. It was not well-organized and could lead to accidents,” said Prayoon Pongphan, the new boss of Koh Samet national park. “Also it was difficult for authorities to collect entrance fees for the island reliably.”
Prayoon was appointed to head the park in September after a mass transfer of 80 officials to combat organized crime operations which demand money from businesses such as banana boat operators, masseuses and fire dancers.
Those removed were accused of corruption and colluding with business operators on the island.
The illegal piers reportedly brought in 200,000 baht every month to island officials, who also used them to pocket 40 percent park of entry fees, according Natthaphol Rattanaphan of the Marine National Park Department.
After the relocation of staff, Samet national park saw an increase of 4.8 million baht in revenues last month, four times what was collected in the same period a year ago, Natthaphol added.
He said the policy is also to change the image of the island from party island where people come to drink and dance on Silver Sands Beach to an ecotourism destination.
Despite the ban on banana boats and parasailing near the beach, Prayoon said they only have the authority to regulate what goes on inside park boundaries.
“It covers only a few kilometers [offshore],” he said Friday. “If they go further than that, we can’t forbid them.”
Prayoon said the golf carts operated on the island would also be removed by year’s end.
Those renting jet skis, motorcycles and speed boats will need to win permission from the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to operate.
Asked if there was any concerns about capacity by reducing access to just one pier, Prayoon said he believed it would be sufficient to serve visitors.