New bans on three popular Thai islands aim to counteract environmental damage

Due to overuse and overpopulation on Thai beaches, government officials have announced plans that they hope will counteract environmental damage on the beaches of three of the most popular Thai islands.

In July, a ban will go into effect for Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan that makes fishing, feeding of fish, coral reef anchoring, and new beach construction illegal, according Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Director Jatuporn Burutphat, according to Chiang Rai Times.

People breaking the new laws may face up to a year in jail and/or a fine of THB100,000 (US$3,206).

This ban adds yet more things that tourists may not do on beaches after a smoking ban went into effect earlier this year on 24 popular tourist beaches.

Koh Phangan is a party island known around the world by backpacker who love its Full Moon Parties. That island gets about a million tourists annually. Neighboring Koh Samui gets over 2 million tourists each year. Koh Tao is also one of the world’s cheapest spots for scuba diving, making it another backpacker fave, though nominally less so after a string of backpacker murders and disappearances over the last few years earned the paradise the nickname of “death island.”

Thailand’s booming tourism industry, which accounts for up to 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, is seeing a continuous rise in the number of tourists each year.

Thailand’s travel numbers continue to grow. In only the first two months of 2018, Thailand welcomed 7.11 million tourists, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ latest tourism performance data.

By those numbers, year-on-year arrivals are up 14.94 percent compared to 2017.

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