Thailand takes aim at the other foot… Nisakiman Posted on 12th October 2017 by Nisakiman13th October 2017 Smoke on Thai beaches this high season and face jail or 100,000 baht fine Smoking will be banned on 20 major Thai beaches from November. And smokers who flout the law will face a year’s jail or a 100,000 baht fine….or both. The strict penalties are in line with existing ordinances concerning causing damage to the environment. Studies have shown that cigarette butts are a major cause of environmental damage not just to the sea and beaches but Thailand in general. And the government – in a step by step by step approach – is targeting smokers as it tries to rid the country of an unwanted tag as one of the biggest environmental polluters in the world. No mention was made about smokers’ health in a Daily News story – the Thais are getting more concerned about the well being of the environment. Smoking will be banned in November as the tourist high season gets rolling in many high profile locations – these include all beaches in Pattaya, Jomtien, Phuket, Cha-Am, Hua Hin and Bang Saen. Others mentioned in the story were in Pangnga and Samila in Songkhla, Mae Phim and Laem Singh. Environment ministry expert Jatuporn Burutphat said that studies – particularly one in Phuket – showed that cigarette butts made up a major proportion of all trash on beaches and in the sea. Surveys revealed up to 138,000 butts on each 2.5 kilometer stretch of Thai coast. Nationwide there are thought to be 100 million cigarettes discarded each day. When leached of their harmful contents by water, potentially deadly substances such as cadmium and lead enter the environment and food chain. No new laws need to be made. The authorities will use ordinances passed in 2015 about damage to the environment. These allow for one year prison terms and 100,000 baht fines or both. Jatuporn said that people will not be allowed to walk along the beach and smoke. A certain proportion of smokers’ cigarettes would always end up on the beach if that was permitted, he said. So smokers will have to stub out their cigarettes at places that will be set up before entry to beaches. Authorities will be on hand to enforce the law, he said. Also plans are being made to enforce the no smoking law on all passenger boats and pleasure boats in Thai waters as cigarettes discarded directly into the sea are a major problem. Jatuporn said that Thailand would host a major ASEAN environment conference in Phuket from October 22 to 23 in which sea and beach trash issues will be top of the agenda. He said that he was determined to do something serious about the tag of “sixth worst polluter oif the ocean in the world” that has been applied to Thailand this year. Source: Daily News So, the possibility for a tourist to face one year in one of Thailand’s delightful jails, or 100,000 Baht (about €2,500), or both for smoking on the beach? That’ll pull in the tourists, Eh? The interesting thing about this new edict is that rather than drafting a new law, they took the quick and easy option of adding it to the environmental protection law. This then begets the question: what will they do if a) you are smoking a pipe, thus leaving no cigarette butt to pollute the environment, or b), go to the beach equipped with a portable ashtray, which also means you have nothing to answer for under the environmental protection laws. I don’t think they’ve really thought this one through. One can, of course understand their wanting to avoid having cigarette butts on their pristine beaches A beach in Thailand Another beach in Thailand Which as you can see, have a massive cigarette butt problem. Nice to see them getting their priorities right. I rarely go to the beaches in Thailand myself, as we have much nicer beaches and much cleaner water here in Greece, and also my wife’s family come from a city near the Laos border in eastern Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani), which is a long way from the sea, and that’s where we spend much of our time when not in Bangkok. But I remember when I was on Phuket about 17 years ago, the beach I used to go to had the usual palm frond umbrellas and sunbeds, but also there was a small clay pot filled with sand which was for cigarette ends, which was cleaned daily by the sun lounge operator. When smokers are given an ashtray, they will generally use it, and not discard their waste carelessly. So we have a simple solution there to the perceived problem of cigarette butt waste. Provide an ashtray. It would seem to me to be a slightly easier and cheaper option than making laws and then paying people to enforce them. Except for the fact that since the military junta has been in power, they’ve been flexing their muscles and banning umbrellas and sun loungers from beaches and bulldozing small restaurants that (conveniently, but alas illegally) sprang up to cater to the needs of the tourists. Oh, and they banned drinking (alcohol) on the beach, too, fun loving chaps that they are. Unless, of course, the whole thing is designed as a revenue raising exercise, and has absolutely nothing to do with either smoking or the environment, which is a strong possibility in Thailand. Although the punishments quoted (100,000 Baht or a year in the chokey) seem excessive, they are in fact the maximum amounts, aimed at industrial polluters, and the most likely scenario is that there would be a fine of maybe 2000 Baht (€50). [I would imagine the guys recruited as ‘enforcers’ will be rubbing their hands in glee. Well, if the guy offers you the choice of a 2000 Baht fine ticket or 1000 Baht cash ‘and-we’ll-say-no-more-about-it’, which would you choose?] And I suppose if you can ticket a couple of thousand tourists per beach per season, it’s easy money, and most welcome, thank you very much. (But there remains the question of how they would prosecute you for smoking under environmental protection laws if you were carrying your own ashtray, and could demonstrate that you were creating no cigarette butt litter.) One gets the impression that these army boys don’t really know very much about how the tourist trade works, somehow. They’re good at marching in step, ironing their collars, shouting a lot and shooting at people and stuff, but they really haven’t got the hang of this ‘government’ stuff. In another genius stroke of irony, they also decided to clear up all the street vendors in Bangkok at the end of last year, at almost exactly the same time Bangkok was awarded the ‘Best Street Food In The World’ award by CNN. So we had the interesting spectacle of one guy telling the papers and TV how wonderful it was that Thailand won this award, and how the tourists flock to Bangkok to experience the wealth and diversity of street food on offer, while concurrently you had another guy telling the papers and TV what a menace all these filthy unregulated street vendors were, clogging up the footpaths and being unhygienic, and how he intends to sweep them all off the streets and clean up the city. In the light of the global publicity following this rather unfortunate coincidence, the Bangkok authorities backpedalled on the ‘sweeping the streets clear of vendors’ a bit, and started looking at alternative possibilities. They have, however, cleared a lot of them, and Bangkok is poorer for it. But it’s ‘progress’, innit?