By The Nation
AN APPEAL will be filed against a court order suspending the ceiling on the number of tourists to Mu Ko Similan National Park between January 1 and March 31.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has vowed to fight the ruling issued by an Administrative Court on Sunday.
“We will definitely appeal,” DNP director-general Thanya Netithammakun said.
DNP has planned to keep the number of tourists to the popular marine national park in Phang Nga province at no more than 3,850 a day so as to ensure the park’s beautiful islands are not damaged by overcrowding and their carrying capacity is not overwhelmed.
However, a core member of the Similan-Surin Islands Tour Operator Club lodged a complaint with the Phuket Administrative Court over the DNP move.
The Administrative Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour over the ceiling, on grounds that the number of tourists to Mu Ko similan National Park during the peak season – January and February – is around 5,000 a day. That number is not too high when compared to the 3,850-tourist ceiling that the DNP seeks to impose, the court ruled.
In the court’s opinion, the DNP should be able to manage that many tourists – even if it is higher than usual – given that it can plan in advance. The court has also ruled that the DNP should involve the private and civil sectors and other relevant authorities in managing tourist services.
‘Travel plans made in advance’
The court told the DNP to take into account the fact that tour operators and tourists plan their trip to the national park well in advance because the preserve is not suitable for visits throughout the year.
Mu Ko Similan National Park, similar to many other marine parks, is closed to tourists for several months every year during the monsoon period.
The court refused to suspend the hike in entrance fees for boats visiting Mu Ko Similan National Park, despite the plaintiff’s request. The new rates range between Bt500 and Bt3,000 per boat, depending on its size and will take effect from May 16 onward.
According to the court, there was no sound reason to suspend the fee increase.
The DNP’s Thanya said that given the beauty of the Mu Ko Similan National Park, it would attract tourists despite increased fees.
“The new rate was introduced for conservation purposes, not with the goal of raising the DNP’s income. We want to protect our natural resources and nature for posterity,” Thanya said.
Panus Tassaneeyanon, a former dean of the Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, voiced support for the DNP move to appeal.
“On some days, the number of tourists to Mu Ko Similan National Park reaches 7,000. That’s too many,” he said.
If the attraction was overwhelmed, damage would be done to its unique nature, Panus said.
“Garbage and wastewater problems will grow. And these problems are difficult to solve.”