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Phuket’s Yamu Beach Protest: Locals Rally Against Swiss National Over Public Access Dispute

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On a sunny Sunday morning in Phuket, the serene vibes of Yamu Beach in the Thalang district were pierced by the fervent chants of a crowd, united in purpose. Approximately 500 passionate locals and activists, inflamed by a recent controversy, converged on the sands that had witnessed an unsettling event. Their target? A villa that had become the epicenter of a heated altercation, involving a Swiss national, Urs Fehr—known locally as David—and a respected doctor, leading to an outcry for justice and the restoration of beach access.

What was supposed to be a peaceful moon-watching escapade turned sour on the evening of February 24, when Dr. Thandao Chandam, a dedicated medical professional from Dibuk Hospital, allegedly received an unwarranted kick to the back from David. Adding insult to injury, the altercation was reportedly exacerbated by verbal assaults from Khanuengnit, David’s wife. The incident swiftly escalated, prompting Dr. Thandao to seek redress through legal means. Though the couple later issued apologies, their absence from their villa on the day of the protest was notably conspicuous.

The air of Yamu Beach rippled with discontent as chants of “Get out David” melded with the rhythmic clicks of cameras capturing the scene at the contentious steps to the beach. Amidst this, the flutter of Thai national flags could be seen, their bearers joining voices to intonate the national anthem—a powerful symbol of unity and resilience.

Local resident Somboon Sampaorat, 58, expressed a deep-seated longing among the community to reclaim Yamu Beach for public enjoyment. He reminisced about a time when the beach was a haven for local fauna and a resource for the community, before the encroachment by foreign-led developments. Such developments, he noted, have drastically altered the landscape and restricted access to these cherished spaces.

Another voice, that of Suchart Jorasakul, 56, echoed the prevalent sentiment, demanding a clear demarcation of public and private spaces to safeguard the right of access to the beach. The presence of activists from the People Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) underscored the broader implications of the issue, advocating for unfettered public access to beaches across the region.

As the local authorities deliberate on punitive measures, including visa revocation and blacklisting as potential recourse against foreigners flouting local laws, the incident has grabbed the attention of higher echelons of power. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, acknowledging the gravity of the situation, has underscored the imperative for foreigners to adhere to Thai laws, signaling a crackdown on errant behaviors that mar the country’s reputation.

The controversy has also sparked a dialogue on the broader influence of foreign businesses in Phuket, as articulated by Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana of the United Thai Nation Party. Amidst narratives of lawlessness and narcotic abuse within foreign-led ventures, there is a growing clamor for regulatory scrutiny to preserve the sanctity of Thailand’s tourism jewel.

In a tale that intertwines the aspirations of a community with the complexities of modern tourism and expatriate life in Thailand, Yamu Beach stands as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between development and preservation. As the saga unfolds, the spirit of Phuket, resilient and vibrant, beckons to all—locals and visitors alike—a vision of harmony and shared custodianship of its natural treasures.


  1. NikkiT March 3, 2024

    This entire situation highlights a bigger problem of foreigners thinking they can just do whatever they want in other countries without respecting local customs or laws. It’s important for expats to remember they are guests in these countries.

    • ExpatSam March 3, 2024

      While I understand the frustration, it’s unfair to generalize all expats based on the actions of a few. Many of us strive to integrate and respect the customs of our host countries.

      • NikkiT March 3, 2024

        Integration and respect should be a given, not something to be praised for. The fact remains that the actions of the few can endanger the welcoming nature for the many.

      • LocalGuy88 March 3, 2024

        Integration is fine and dandy, but when locals can’t even access their own beaches, that’s when you know respect has flown out the window. It’s about basic rights.

    • BeachLover123 March 3, 2024

      Sure, but the issue seems deeper than just one Swiss couple. It’s about preserving public access against privatization. We should focus on that.

      • ActivistJane March 3, 2024

        Exactly! It’s about fighting for public spaces. We’ve seen this pattern worldwide, where the rich try to privatize what should be available for everyone.

  2. TouristTom March 3, 2024

    I’m planning a trip to Phuket soon and this situation makes me reevaluate. I don’t want to support a place where locals are being mistreated by other foreigners.

    • TravelGuru March 3, 2024

      It’s important to remember that this is an isolated incident and not reflective of the entire expat community or the relationship between locals and tourists.

    • CulturalSensitivity March 3, 2024

      Maybe this is a sign to approach tourism more consciously. Supporting local businesses and respecting local customs goes a long way.

  3. PhuketNative March 3, 2024

    As a local, this incident has been brewing for a while. The encroachment on public spaces by foreign investors is alarming. Our beaches are for everyone, not just those who can afford to build around them.

    • RealEstateMogul March 3, 2024

      Foreign investment brings development and jobs to places like Phuket. It’s not all negative. There needs to be a balance.

      • PhuketNative March 3, 2024

        Development at the cost of public access and environmental degradation is not a price we’re willing to pay. A balance that only benefits investors isn’t a balance.

    • GreenHeart March 3, 2024

      I’m an environmental activist, and the main concern should also include the environmental impact of these ‘developments’. Are we sacrificing natural beauty for profit?

      • EcoWarrior March 3, 2024

        Absolutely! Every beachside villa contributes to habitat loss. We need stricter environmental regulations to protect our natural treasures.

  4. LegalEagle March 3, 2024

    Curious about the legal aspect here. Is there a clear law regarding beach access in Thailand that the authorities can enforce, or is this more about public pressure and awareness?

    • LawStudent March 3, 2024

      Thailand’s laws prioritize public access to natural resources like beaches, but enforcement can be tricky, especially when private properties are involved. Public awareness and pressure are crucial.

  5. Nomad March 3, 2024

    This story is a reminder of the complexities of living in a foreign land. We must tread lightly and respect the boundaries and customs of our host communities.

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