Sunday, July 23, 2006

foreign investors beware - you will be the scapegoats for Thai mismanagement

Pha-Ngan official warns not to sell land to foreign

Samui used as an example of how to destroy island environment by excessive

Villagers on the island of Koh Pha-Ngan have been urged by a provincial official to help promote eco-tourism and keep their land out of the hands of foreigners.

Thawatchai Terdphaothai, the deputy governor of Surat Thani province, said yesterday he did not want to see Koh Pha-Ngan face the same fate as neighbouring Koh Samui, where land rights have been sold legally to foreign investors and the natural environment has been ruined by tourism.

Koh Pha-Ngan, which is 15 kilometres from Koh Samui, is situated in the Gulf of Thailand, 100km from Surat Thani, the district centre.

Thawatchai asked Koh Pha-Ngan villagers to learn from the recent case of (alleged) illegal land sales on Koh Samui involving foreigners.

The deputy governor said local communities should set rules to prevent villagers selling their land to foreigners.

Thawatchai said Koh Pha-Ngan is well known for its full-moon parties but still has beautiful natural attractions and local culture to attract more tourists.

The provincial authority and local investors would join communities in developing 'eco-cultural' tourism, he said.

Chan-chod Piriyasatit, the head of the Koh Pha-Ngan Tourism Association, said he would ask the authorities, especially the police, to be more concerned about the safety of tourists on the island.

Meanwhile Pramote Sabyen, the director-general of the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) Southern Office, said the long-term development of tourism on Koh Pha-Ngan would still focus on promoting the full-moon parties, because these were the main source of income.

However, the preservation of local culture should also be promoted, the director-general said.

He added that villagers should be confident their participation in eco-cultural tourism would draw more visitors to the island.

Pramote said the TAT is cooperating with police and provincial authorities to improve security for tourists.

Since 2003, the number of visitors to Koh Pha-Ngan had increased by at least 19 per cent per year. He asked local people to take care of tourists and not exploit them.

Following the case on Koh Samui and a land-ownership probe there, officials were checking land rights on Koh Pha-Ngan, said Damrong Pidej, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The department was preparing to declare Koh Pa-Ngan a new national park, he said.

Ridiculous. The majority of development on Koh Samui is Thai owned and administered, as can be seen from the ugly streetscape and constant construction noise in what were once charming areas like Chaweng beach. Blaming foreigners for Thailand's poor zoning that has resulted in the destruction of most anything in the country that was once beautiful is a pernicious lie.

The few nominally foreign owned big ventures like the Amari Palm Reef Resort are actually a welcome relief from the chaos, stupidity and ugliness of the rest of modern Koh Samui.

Monday, July 10, 2006

realBuddhism, from the Dalai Lama

“I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the
selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a
sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation
of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed.”
-- the Dalai Lama