No Smoking On The Beaches

The Thai authorities are well known for making rash decisions based on reports by so-called experts and this week’s example is up there with the best, or should I say worst, of them. Smoking is to be prohibited on every beach in Phuket plus many more throughout Thailand!

And the punishment? Up to a 100,000 baht fine and/or one year’s imprisonment! Let’s put that into perspective: the usual fine for smoking in a prohibited area such as an air-conditioned restaurant or a public park is 2,000 baht. A typical fine for causing someone actual bodily harm is 500 baht!

The reasoning appears nothing to do with public health but it’s more of an environmental issue. Yes, those pesky cigarette butts are of more concern that the plastic bottles, used condoms, styrofoam containers and plastic bags that litter beaches throughout the Kingdom, not to mention raw sewage.

How will this be enforced? It appears that teams of police will be patrolling the beaches on the lookout for those lighting up. That would seem to be a means of topping up their monthly salaries; “You pay me 5,000 baht now and you won’t have to come to the police station!”.

What about e-cigarettes? They don’t produce butts. Maybe not, but they are illegal in Thailand and a potential double-whammy might hit anybody vaping on the beach!

People go to the beach to relax. They might want a beer and a cigarette before going for a swim, and why should this be a problem. I’m a non-smoker and you’d think as such that I welcome the idea but no, I don’t. I advocate the freedom of tourists to act as they would, at least within the law, on any beaches around the world. They’ve courted the Chinese market here for some time and China is in the top ten countries in the world of smokers as a percentage of the population.

Perhaps, though, Thailand isn’t quite as draconian as the Spanish beach resort of San Pedro del Pinatar, where ball-games and pissing in the ocean has been banned. I just hope some Thai expert doesn’t discover this gem! But it does show that stupid laws are not the exclusive domain of Thailand.

If the new edict is enforced as rigorously as the smoking laws in Bangkok’s bars then there will be nothing to worry about but if the police do see this as a nice little earner then it might be problematical for a while, before dying a death like so many Thailand crackdowns.

But let’s wait for the International press to react if and when the first Western tourist is fined 100,000 baht. That should do wonders for the Thai tourist industry. Though perhaps those clever folk at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) might just turn it to their advantage. Next market to tap into: non-smokers.

October 2017

This is likely to be a very sombre month featuring both the first anniversary of the death of Thailand’s revered King Bhumibo Adulyadej on October 13th, followed by his cremation on the 26th.

What does this mean for the tourist? Well, it’s still not really clear.

The funeral ceremony will take place over a five day period. It was originally thought the the whole week would be a public holiday as Monday 23rd is already a holiday (Chulalongkorn Day) and the cremation is on a Thursday but this isn’t the case with only the 26th specifically designated such.

You’ll see that colours on Thai TV have been toned down to a greyscale tone, many websites have acted similarly while many have reverted to black and white as a mark of respect. Many Thais have changed their Facebook profiles back and white with a black ribbon on the frame. Phuket entertainment venues have been asked to tone down their activities, though I’ve not seen or heard reports of any changes just yet, The Pattaya Police Chief has also made an announcement.

It would not be a surprise if alcohol sales are banned on the 13th and possibly for the 5 day period commencing 23rd October, with the 26th a certainty. Unfortunately the Thai way is to leave such announcements until the last minute. Will Thailand come to a complete halt on the 26th? It’s quite likely, as most Thais will be glued to their TV sets, such was the esteem in which the King was held.

I’m pretty sure we’ll see a return to the dress-code evidenced after the King’s death with Thais mostly wearing black on the anniversary of the death and as the cremation date nears.

But it’s all speculation. Most Thai people have never experienced the funeral of a monarch and there’s certainly been nothing on a similar scale in the TV age, let alone the digital age.

How will this affect tourists, other than potential bar closures? I’d suggest that travel around Bangkok may prove difficult during the lead up to the cremation and on the day itself. Beach resorts will mostly be business as usual but tourists will be expected to act with respect and dignity during this important time for the Thai people. It’s probably not a good idea to hold raucous parties, or dress in outrageously colourful outfits during the period of the funeral but at the same time, tourists are on holiday and won’t be expected to stop enjoying themselves and won’t be expected to wear black, though it might just be appreciated if some do. Just keep an eye on what’s happening and act accordingly. We’re all pretty much in the dark.

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