APRIL 9, 2019
, THAILAND – Thai islanders have warned aviation authorities they could ruin tourism in the region if they use the death penalty to punish people for taking selfies near a local airport.
The stretch of sand next to the busy airport on Phuket in the country’s south has become a popular attraction with holidaymakers because of its proximity to the island’s airport.
But airport chiefs warned last week that tourists were in danger of causing crashes and announced plant to shut off a section of the beach to stop pilots becoming distracted.
Phuket locals, however, hit back by saying if the beach was closed it would stop tourists coming to the island.
‘If the beach is closed, we will have serious problems because many tourists simply will not come,’ Winai Sae-io, head of a local entrepreneurial stimulus program, told The Phuket News.
‘I want (Airports of Thailand, which operates Phuket International Airport) to look at us and support locals in making (a) living here, too.’
Phuket International Airport deputy chief Wichit Kaeothaithiam on Thursday told Bangkok Post taking photos at the nearby Mai Khao Beach will soon be illegal.
Despite being popular with those wanting to capture an up-close photo with an incoming plane, the ‘selfie runway’ had become a distraction for pilots, he said.
Mr. Kaeothaithiam said moving forward, the end of the beach near the runway will fall under a newly developed ‘off limits’ safety zone, which will take effect soon.
‘People and tourists will not be allowed to enter this area to take photos,’ Mr. Kaeothaithiam said.
Over the years, countless tourists have captured one-of-a-kind happy snaps of planes flying across Mai Khao beach onto the island’s runway.
But under the tough new rules, Mr. Kaeothaithiam said beachgoers who take photos on the beach risk being slapped with hefty fines or could be sentenced to death.
‘The maximum penalty is the death sentence,’ he said.
According to the deputy chief, authorities will be required to enforce the new rules under the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Mr. Kaeothaithiam believes tourists who take selfies on the beach are adding to the constant movement, which is increasingly becoming a serious concern.
While he agreed boosting airport revenue is important, he stressed tourism and safety must co-exist.
Locals and tourists have also been urged to avoid flying drones and shining flashlights at planes, which have equally become a distraction for incoming planes.
The advice comes after it was revealed drones were becoming a major concern for airports around the world, 7News reported.
Numerous drone sightings resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights at London’s Gatwick Airport in December 2018.
Authorities are hopeful the new safety zone at Phuket Airport will reduce the amount of drone and light interference with incoming planes.