Viral video lights fire under Koh Larn beach-cleanup efforts

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The furor over an Internet video showing a Cambodian beach vendor kicking sand on a tourist who refused to rent a beach chair has lit a fire under Pattaya’s efforts to bring order to the island’s shoreline.

The day after arresting 25-year-old “Ping” for intimidating and assaulting a Russian woman in the 2013 video released on YouTube Sept. 5, Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho, soldiers from the 14th Infantry Circle in Chonburi, and Pattaya Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh returned to the island to lay down the law to 200 beach-chair vendors.

An entourage of government officials, military and local police make their way to inspect Koh Larn’s beaches.An entourage of government officials, military and local police make their way to inspect Koh Larn’s beaches.

Pattaya, they explained, has launched efforts to enforce long-standing regulations on the operations and space used by chair and umbrella renters in hopes of staving off the type of military action that took place in Phuket, where soldiers removed every chair and structure on the sand. But behavior such as that depicted in the viral video – even if it occurred in October 2013 – jeopardizes those efforts by putting pressure on the National Council for Peace and Order to intervene, they said.

On Sept. 9, local government workers and Marine Department officials began a survey of Koh Larn’s seven beaches, measuring the width of the sand, how many chairs were deployed and what percentage of the sand is left for the public.

Sakchai said the goal is to increase the amount of beach where tourists can sit without needing to rent a beach chair. But the final determination of the percentage and the methods used to achieve it won’t be finalized until local officials meet with Chonburi Gov. Khomsan Ekachai within the next 30 days.

Officials said a committee also will be established to look at longer-term solutions, including even emptying the beach of all chairs and umbrellas one day a week. However, more discussions on such matters is needed, Sakchai said.

One person who may not be participating in any future talks, however, is Pae Poaphim, the owner of a Nang Nual restaurant and the concession holder for the beach parcel and Ping’s employer. The Cambodian said he rousted the Russian tourist on orders from Pae.

Chonburi police Superintendent Maj. Gen. Thanet Pinmueng-ngam said police have questioned Pae and are investigating whether he was indeed involved in the video. If so, he will face charges as well. The beach survey also will determine if his restaurant encroaches on public land.