Government officers push back against Bali Hai critics


The army pushed back against angry tour and boat operators who posted photos trying to embarrass the junta online, insisting their poor service caused the current chaos and that internet shaming won’t be tolerated.

Col. Popanan Leungpanuwat, head of the National Council for Peace and Order in the Pattaya area, also threatened on Feb. 23 to shut down tour guides who abandon at Bali Hai customers who cannot board boats using what the tours guides are calling inadequate numbers of makeshift floating docks the military installed last month.

The National Council for Peace and Order threatened to shut down tour guides who abandon customers at Bali Hai.
The National Council for Peace and Order threatened to shut down tour guides who abandon customers at Bali Hai.

Tour and boat operators were incensed when the army on Feb. 16 kicked them off Pattaya Beach and forced them to load and unload passengers only at Bali Hai Pier before arranging sufficient numbers of replacement speedboat berths.

To them, it was insult following injury after the military evicted many of those same speedboat vendors from Bali Hai and demolished their boat ramp without arranging replacements.

The result has been long lines and trip cancellations, particularly among older or infirm tourists who cannot walk on the unstable pontoons or scurry over garbage barges to get to their vessels.

As the majority of canceled passengers are on package tours and have no hotel, they end up hanging out at Bali Hai, sleeping in public areas or even suffering accidents, such as falling down steps.

Vendors took to social media, posting photos of disgruntled, bored and sleeping tourists at the pier or even the aftermath of their mishaps.

Many of the photos went viral or were picked up by news outlets, shaming the junta with for its tendency to order major changes in Pattaya without considering the consequences.

Popanan made clear at last week’s meeting that the junta won’t tolerate being blamed online. Anyone caught posting similar photos in the future would feel the full wrath of military’s might, he vowed.

He argued it was the tour operators that caused the problem by abandoning customers at the pier. From Feb. 24 onward, he said, boat and tour companies are required to prepare alternate programs and activities for boat passengers unable to go to the island.

As for the inadequate numbers of unsteady docks that caused passengers to skip their Koh Larn journeys in the first place, the army colonel said the NCPO will consider some additional, temporary, boarding areas. But under no circumstance can boat operators return to the beach, he insisted.

Popanan also said the military would try to tackle the long lines to board boats by assigning someone to come up with a scheduling plan so that all the speedboat operators don’t try to board passengers simultaneously.