The foreign community moan and moan that the Thais won’t do anything to sort out the problem of trash in Thailand.
They blame the Thais for clogging the drains, leaving behind their polystyrene boxes, treating nature and the beaches like a rubbish bin.
It’s like nothing so much as a sweet paper has even been dropped in the West.
There is of course more than a little truth in all of that.
Then along comes a Thai environmentalist – Jatuporn Burutphat – who wants to clear up the beaches. He has done a survey that suggests a major environmental hazard are cigarette butts.
He wants to rid Thailand of the scourge. He wants to clean up the place.
He doesn’t want all those foreigners complaining that the Thais are doing nothing about being named the sixth worst polluters on the planet.
Sure he knows that plastic bottles and stuff thrown out of boats and in coastal drains is important too but he has to start somewhere.
He’s being proactive and his efforts, announced yesterday, mean a ban on smoking on 20 beaches is coming into force.
All well and good.
The trouble is that rather than suggesting that those that break the law will be fined for littering, they will be prosecuted under damage to the environment legislation.
This means they could theoretically be jailed or fined 100,000 baht – even both.
The Thais know this is never going to happen but the foreigners are not so sure.
Cue: a massive Thai bashing festival ensues where some suggest that the move is designed to go after foreigners.
Over the top? – perhaps.
They suggest that unscrupulous people, like some local authorities, might use the ordnance to extort money from foreign beachgoers.
That’s not unreasonable especially if you have seen “tetsakit” officers fining foreigners in Bangkok 2,000 baht for dropping a cigarette butt when they would never have approached a Thai.
And in reality what tourist faced with a huge fine would not part with a few thousand just to get back to their hotel.
In next to no time the whole issue of filth on the beach has been almost forgotten.
Jatuporn and his pals didn’t think it through because they don’t think
from a foreigner’s perspective.
The foreigners didn’t really get that using the environment law was just a short cut, misguided perhaps, but the Thais meant no harm.
Generally, people would be advised not to smoke at first. There would be signs, places to congregate if you fancied a quick drag. Lots of smiles and pointing.
Khorp khun khraps and jai yen yens.
Like all things in Thailand there would be compromise and leeway before the message got across that smokers really are not wanted on the beaches.
But once again we get a mess.
Planning. Not enough Thai people – especially those in power – think their actions through.
Those actions are often well intended but fall short of effectiveness because of poor planning in their implementation and lack of foresight for the resulting, often negative, consequences.
And this is especially true when changes to laws and regulations impact foreigners – both residents and tourists who are visiting Thailand.
If you have lived in the kingdom for a while you kind of get what the Thais are aiming at.
But I can’t help thinking that some in positions of responsibility need a bit of cultural training when it comes to matters that impact visitors.
Thaivisa could have buried the fact of jail time and 100,000 baht fines in the stories just as the Thai press did. But why should they?
It’s a fact that those draconian punishments are on the books. Look what happened to the person feeding the fish.
It’s sad really.
What started off as the good intentions of a man determined to improve things, ends in this.
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