Pattaya’s latest beach facelift project stopped a day after it began when a group of influential Thais protested the cutting of trees lining the shoreline.
Nong Nooch Landscape & Garden Design Co., the lead contractor in Jomtien Beach’s 600-million-baht renovation, began cutting and removing several large trees with heavy machinery when protestors arrived mid-morning.
Among them was Jidapa Thanahattachai, a Chonburi-based leader of the “red shirt” United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, and Chairat Rattanopas, president of Eastern Spa & Wellness Association.
The demonstrators complained that the 166-million-baht renovation project launched Sunday is destroying Pattaya’s signature beachfront look, even though the plan calls for new trees and lush plants, flowers and bushes to replace the single trees removed.
“I grew up with these trees and they provide well-needed shade for residents and beach vendors,” Jidapa told the media, apparently oblivious that the new plan will result in even more shade.
Trees weren’t the root of the protestors objections. The real splinter was the expenditure of the such a huge sum during the deepest depths of Thailand’s coronavirus epidemic.
“This is the wrong time to do a beach remodel,” she said. “We should pay more attention to protecting and controlling the spread of the virus and people who need food and supplies. Thousands of residents are hungry and on the streets.”
Similar sentiments about both the cutting of old trees and the propriety of spending 166 million baht now were echoed on Facebook.
Pattaya municipal police chief Pol. Maj. Jeerawat Sukontasap brought city security officers to the scene to try and disperse the crowd, which was risking spreading the very virus they were protesting over and were threatening to forcibly halt work of the heavy machinery.
Jeerwat said afterward that the city has agreed to halt work on the beach project pending talks with community leaders. All equipment would be removed from the beach.
If – more likely when – the project is restarted, contractors will spend the next 26 months giving Pattaya Beach a similar look to Jomtien, complete with exercise areas, a children’s playground and subterranean restrooms.
In addition to relandscaping the beach itself, the project includes yet another widening of Beach Road, adding another traffic lane and 700 parking spaces.
The blueprint also calls for creation of recreational areas on the beach, three restrooms and beach showers, and the planting of new trees along both sides of Beach Road and additional lighting for improved safety.This story appeared in the Pattaya Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.