Environment

Thailand closes island to tourists

Koh Tachai will be closed to tourists indefinitely

BANGKOK:  Koh Tachai, one of Thailand’s most beautiful island destinations, will be closed to tourists indefinitely in an attempt to protect it from irreparable harm, the government has announced.

The island, in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phang Nga province, is famous for its white-sand beaches and its reefs popular with divers and snorkelers.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is closing the beaches, the reef and a tourist area on the island “to solve the environmental and natural resources impact which is caused by tourism,” according to an announcement on the department’s website. The order was issued on May 10.

The decision means that Koh Tachai, which stopped receiving visitors Sunday, will not reopen as is customary in October.

During the tourist season, hundreds of visitors congregate daily on a beach that by government standards should accommodate only 70. Recent video of the island on Thai television showed the beach swarming with tourists, with the tour boats that brought them lined up along the shore. The island is designated as a “primitive zone,” not a park, according to the parks department’s announcement.

Koh Tachai is part of Mu Koh Similan National Park, about 45 miles off Thailand’s southwest coast. The park is normally closed to tourists from mid-May to mid-October because of safety concerns during the monsoon season.

Thanya Netithammakun, the department’s general director, said the park had become increasingly popular with Thai and foreign visitors as word of its beauty spread.

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