Corrupt ‘government officials’ selling public beachfront in Pattaya, top Chonburi official claims

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Politicians and other influential public figures are claiming ownership of large swaths of Pattaya-area beaches, selling or renting out 49-sq.-meter patches of sand to beach chair vendors, Chonburi officials said.

Continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pattaya and Jomtien beaches’ 500 chair and umbrella vendors, Chonburi Permanent Secretary Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said Oct. 6 that 252 of the vendors claim they own the sand on which they operate on Pattaya, Jomtien and Dongtan beaches.

Chonburi Permanent Secretary Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said that 252 of the 500 chair and umbrella vendors think they own the sand on which they operate on Pattaya, Jomtien and Dongtan beaches.Chonburi Permanent Secretary Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said that 252 of the 500 chair and umbrella vendors think they own the sand on which they operate on Pattaya, Jomtien and Dongtan beaches.

All beaches are public property and cannot be owned or rented out to private citizens, Chawalit pointed out. Sorting out the situation, he said, is causing delays in complying with the National Council for Peace and Order’s directive to clean up and reorganize Pattaya-area beaches.

The military junta has shown little patience for corrupt politicians and “influential” private figures encroaching on public beaches. The NCPO sent soldiers to clear the sand in Phuket of beach chairs, umbrellas and other vendors, unapologetically tossing hundreds of people out of work. Vendors petitioned the junta to relax its ban only to be told to enroll in occupational-training courses to learn new vocations.

The threat of military action prompted officials in Hua Hin to take similar action while local officials and the military were working on Koh Lipe and the Phi Phi islands to restore the beachfront to its natural state.

The military has told Pattaya to sort out its beachfront issues itself, but the threat of military intervention hangs heavy over the city. Yet, despite the threat of having all its beach umbrellas folded up, the city has dragged its feet, still trying to allow beach-chair vendors to profit from public property.

Local corruption appears to be the reason for that, Chawalit said. His 10 teams of inspectors reported vendors telling them they are paying 5,000-50,000 baht a month to “owners” of their 7×7-meter lots. Half have opted to “buy” the public property for up to 1 million baht.

All the money is going into the pockets of “government officials” who he declined to, or was unable to, identify. Vendors who rent their lots say government officials and city politicians approved their rental contract, Chawalit said.

He noted, however, that many of those renting vendors were never registered with the city, again pointing to private deals between the operators and the government officials who approved them.

Likely for fear of losing their concessions, nobody is saying who they bought or are renting the public beachfront from, the permanent secretary said. He vowed, however, to continue to investigate, saying many of the vendors inspectors spoke to are lying.

Meanwhile, inspectors will continue to measure each parcel and ask the land office to pin boundary points to separate the chair areas from sand allocated to the public to prevent them from encroaching further.

So, for the moment, things will remain as they have, Chawalit said: Vendors will be allowed to operate one 7×7-meter parcel with 35 umbrellas and 40 chairs. However, he noted, many of the vendors inspected operate up to five parcels in violation of even the current regulations.

If the matter cannot be sorted out, Chawalit warned, the government will simply seize all their property and the land. He encouraged vendors to cooperate before it gets to that point.