Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thai bay made famous in The Beach shut indefinitely

Thai bay made famous in The Beach shut indefinitely

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tourists bask in the sun on the Maya Bay beach, on the southern Thai island of Koh Phi Phi, in April. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/afp

Thai bay made famous in The Beach shut indefinitely

THE glittering Thai bay immortalised in the movie “The Beach” will be closed indefinitely to allow it to recover from the impact of hordes of tourists, an official said Wednesday, as a temporary ban on visitors expired.

Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Ley island, was made famous when it featured in the 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

It was initially shut for four months in June due to beach erosion and pollution as the white-sand paradise sagged under pressure from thousands of day-trippers arriving by boat.

But a survey of the problem during the temporary ban made clear that the short-term fix was not going to work and that the damage was worse than originally thought.

“We have evaluated each month and found out that the ecological system was seriously destroyed from tourism of up to 5,000 people daily,” Songtam Suksawang, director of the National Parks office, told AFP.

“It’s very difficult to remedy and rehabilitate because its beach was completely destroyed as well the plants which cover it,” he said, adding it was “impossible” for recovery to occur in the allotted time.

He provided photos to AFP showing the degradation of Maya Bay’s shores, where trees and smaller vegetation have been gradually uprooted as its white sands receded.

Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation announced the indefinite closure in a Royal azette published on Monday.

It said the restrictions on tourism would not be lifted until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation”.

Besides beach erosion, heavy traffic around the azure waters can also damage sensitive coral reefs, already vulnerable to rising sea temperatures and climate change.

Arnaud Simons of Ocean Quest Global, an environmental organisation assisting the government with coral recovery around Maya Bay, said the bay’s rehabilitation could “last for four years at least” and the indefinite closure is “very good news”.

“Over the last few months, the monsoon season and rough sea conditions have indeed hindered the efforts of coral rehabilitation, but we have no doubt that the longer term objectives ... will be met.”

Tourism overload

Thailand attracted up to 35 million visitors last year, many of whom flocked to Krabi town where boat trips carried visitors to nearby island destinations – of which Maya Bay is a key attraction.

Nanthapat Horbut, who runs a tour company in Krabi, was “disappointed” by the closure as his company had promised Maya Bay to customers booked for Thailand’s tourist high season which begins in November.

“All tourists ... want to see Maya Bay, both Chinese and western tourists alike,” Nanthapat said.

Paul Pruangkarn of Pacific Asia Travel Association – a non-profit working with Thaioperators to promote responsible tourism – said the decision was a double-edged sword for local communities.

“You need to also consider the livelihoods,” said Pruangkarn. “They still have to feed themselves and support their families.”

“The government has to consider how then can they assist them.”

Countries across the region are waking up to the problems of plastic waste and environmental degradation caused by beach tourism overload.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced in April a six-month closure of the popular Boracay beach resort, calling the destination a “cesspool”.

And Indonesia declared a “garbage emergency” last year along a stretch of the resort island of Bali, after coastal pollution was highlighted in a viral video that showed a diver swimming through waters full of trash.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon