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

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return

  • Cambodia celebrates 66th Independence Day

    Cambodia on Saturday celebrated Independence Day to mark the end of French colonial rule under the leadership of King Father Norodom Sihanouk in 1953. Thousands of people from all walks of life watched King Norodom Sihamoni light the victory flame at Independence Monument to mark the 66