Asia Minute: Thailand’s Beach Chair Controversy

Mar 3, 2017

Patong Beach on Phuket
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Last week, Thailand’s military wrapped up several weeks of exercises with international forces led by the United States. The annual drills called “Cobra Gold” involved approximately 3,600 U.S. personnel. This week, one focus for the military in Thailand was more modest: domestic beaches. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.


Thailand’s army overruled its navy this week.

The issue was not military tactics, but beach chairs on the tourist island of Phuket.

Yes, beach chairs—those controversial foldable devices like those that may be lurking in the trunk of your car right now.

Thailand is ruled by a military government.  Several years ago, authorities decided that Phuket’s beaches were becoming too “cluttered.”

Casual beach bar shacks were bulldozed.  Vendors were barred—including those that rented beach umbrellas and chairs.

Local media reported that a meeting was held to refine those rules.  Among those attending: a Major General, a Vice-Admiral, all police station superintendents and the governor of Phuket.

The tightened regulations included a banning of all beach chairs—to be enforced by police, with help from the Navy.

The Phuket Wan Tourist News called the ban “the most obvious sign so far that local authorities are out of touch with the needs of tourists, do not understand beach culture, and have no concept of international standards for beaches.”

This week, the ban on beach chairs was lifted.

The Phuket Gazette quotes an army major general as saying that vendors do have to make sure the beach chairs “are placed in an orderly and appropriate fashion.”