Koh Chang Closed from 13-15 November?
12 Nov. Apparently there won’t be any closure this weekend now. That has been delayed until 18 December, just in time for Christmas, unless the protesters get what they want. Full story further down the page.
The dispute regarding issuance of title deeds for farmland on the island has escalated and yesterday it was announced that the passenger ferries to the island may well be stopped from 13-15 November as a result.
What this means is that unless enterprising speedboat operators quickly think up a cunning and extremely profitable plan, there will be no travel between the mainland and Koh Chang during this period.
If you are scheduled to leave or arrive during this time it might be worth contacting your hotel to see what, if any, their ‘Plan B’ is to get you on or off the island.
Of course the ferries might still run, as I cant see it being good for business. But it looks like the closure is for real as all the local government offices & National Park have been told it will take place. The person behind the idea of closing the ferries is a local official, who also happens to own a lot of untitled farmland in Kai Bae valley.
Quick update . . .
There is meeting going on this afternoon between locals and various govt. officials. So far the Trat Governor hasn’t shown any interest in their plight as he refused to meet them when they went to his house the other day. Therefore, if the protesters don’t get what they want then they will block the road near Klong Son starting on Friday. And if the road is blocked the ferries will have to stop. (Although how long they would actually be allowed to block the road remains to be seen, as it will piss a lot of people off.)
Later update at 9pm. . .
The meeting is over and it is now down to just the road being blocked and ferries stopping on Friday the 13th. However, people who were at the meeting and so who know more about this than me, reckon any stoppage won’t be all day. A little disruption is OK, but the powers that be don’t want them to go too far.
More info if/when I have it and hopefully some photos of locals being teargassed by riot police as that should increase my hit count. (Thanks to James for the first heads up a couple of days ago that something was being planned.)
Nov 11th – Bangkok Post now have the story
Koh Chang protest hots up
TRAT — Leaders on Koh Chang will decide today whether to close the tourist island to visitors to pressure the government to solve a long-running land dispute with the navy.
Residents, led by local leaders and politicians, are threatening to close off the island to visitors on Friday unless their demands are met. They want the revocation of the navy’s ownership documents for land on the island and the cancellation of Koh Chang’s listing as a national park.
The residents claim the land controlled by the navy and the national park infringe on their land. The group submitted a written protest to the Trat governor on Monday.
Sophon Chanderm, a provincial councillor representing Koh Chang district, said leading protesters, including village heads, would meet today to decide whether they should go ahead with their plan to close the island on Friday.
Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch, a Trat MP, rushed to hold talks with Wanrung Khanornkul, a protest leader, on Monday night.
Mr Teera told Mr Wanrung the government was not ignoring their problems and was working to verify their land claims.
Maiyarat Pheerayakoses, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said it would be the islanders. not travel agents or tour companies, who were hurt most if the dispute was allowed to drag on. Travel agents could always advise tourists to visit somewhere else.
I wonder what the chances of getting Koh Chang’s status as a National Park revoked, thus paving the way for the locals to build whatever they want all over the hillsides and basically trashing the place, is?
11 Nov. Evening. This is the information being given by tour agents to visitors planning to come to Koh Chang this weekend:
From what we can gather from Koh Chang the boycott people is a limited group headed by 4-5 politicians and they do not have backing from the majority of local hotel owners and boat operators.
Our general feeling at this time is thus that the connection to the island would be possible even if a temporary boycott of the ferry terminal is made since several boat operators and alternative piers would be available as alternatives to transporting the tourists.
11 Nov. Later . . . The wife of one of the people organising the protests says the Bangkok Post report is wrong, they haven’t asked for the demands that were reported in the paper. Only for their land to be upgraded.
12 Nov. No closure, not now anyway, but there might be nearer Christmas:
TRAT : Residents of Koh Chang angered at losing land to the government in a dispute over decades-old satellite images have deferred a decision to close down the island after Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch stepped in.
The residents, many involved in Koh Chang’s booming tourism industry, yesterday agreed to wait until the middle of next month to give the government time to respond positively to their land ownership problems.
Many complain they have lost their land to the state based on satellite photos taken in 1967. They met local authorities at Koh Chang district office yesterday and agreed not to close down the island from today, although they were still angry at the government for delaying a review of the order to seize their land.
The residents insisted they had owned their land for generations, but it was seized after authorities had reviewed satellite photos and concluded parts of the island belonged to the state.
A source said they were not consulted before the decision was made. Representatives of the residents told yesterday’s meeting the government was insincere about addressing their problems and some who had defied the government had been arrested and charged with encroaching on their own property. They said they did not understand what was taking the government so long to verify the land ownership.
Mr Teera, a Trat MP, telephoned the meeting and said a petition by the residents verifying the ownership had been forwarded to the PM’s Office and he expected the issue to be settled by Dec 18.
He asked the residents to be patient and not close down the island as it would deter tourists and cause economic hardship for everyone on Koh Chang. The residents said they would block tourists from arriving on the island and would not engage in any more negotiations if they did not hear from the government on Dec 18 with a positive response.
Koh Chang district chief Sakprasert Charoenprasit, hotel operators and Trat provincial councillor Sophon Jandoem who represents Koh Chang attended the meeting. Mr Sakprasert said even the threat of closing down the island had hurt Koh Chang’s tourism opportunities.
Tour operator Sanya Kerdmanee, a former president of the Koh Chang Tambon Administration Organisation, said it was not right for some local politicians, community leaders and people to risk business opportunities on the island over the land dispute.
Jaruwon Jintakanont, president of the Tourism Association of Trat, said the resident’s threat had caused 30% of incoming visitors to either cancel or postpone their trips to the island.
Smile, your holiday might be ruined . . .
. . . but you can still enjoy this great video tour of Koh Chang, guaranteed to cheer you up a bit.
The following is a real news report, not a spoof. Next step is to get entrepreneurs to actually answer their emails. But that’s another training course for another time.
Better online marketing skills for Ko Chang
BANGKOK, 9 November 2009 (NNT) â€“ The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) arranges an online marketing training program for Ko Chang tourism entrepreneurs in Trat province.
TAT information technology department director Phanom Kaributra said that the training would help local entrepreneurs expand their businesses as there was a growing potential in the Trat tourism market, according to a TAT marketing research. More than 70 online tourism entrepreneurs in Ko Chang have shown interest in the training.
The entrepreneurs will be shown how to link their websites with the TAT website www.TourismThailand.org as well as other private tourism websites, both domestic and international. The training will also teach them to develop hotel online reservation systems.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water
You too could have a close encounter with a whale shark during your stay. More excellent underwater photos plus info on booking dive courses and trips on the island courtesy of BB Divers, the only PADI IDC center on Koh Chang. Details of courses, dive trips here.
A five star hotel for 1,000 Baht/night!
One of Koh Chang’s luxury resorts was advertising rooms for 1,000 Baht/night from 31 May 2010 onwards bookable through their own website. I thought this must be some mistake as online booking agents had the same rooms for nearer 4,000 baht/night. Sure enough it was and the mistake was rectified once they were made aware of it. I’m not sure how many lucky people will have been able to get a 4 star room for the price of a guesthouse but hopefully some have.
Cambodia Trade Fair
That’s the name the locals gave to the Temple Fair that was held in Klong Prao last week, designed to raise funds for the temple. However, this year it barely broke even. Lots of visitors but they were mostly Cambodian workers enjoying the free entertainment and not spending money. Proceedings were livened up on the last night by a stand off between armed groups of locals outside the temple in which someone was shot.
Lonely Planet on Koh Chang
The guide is being updated again and the author is currently on Koh Chang checking out new and interesting places to eat, sleep and drink. So be nice to new customers, you never know who they might be :-)
‘Cybercrime’ on Koh Chang
Mr ‘Cybercrime’ is a Russian expert on all things Koh Chang related and one of the main sources of information on the island for pretty much all the Russian independent travellers who come here. He first came to Koh Chang in 2005 and has returned every year, each time updating his original post on the ‘Vinsky’ Travel Forum. The topic has now been viewed well over 200,000 times. It’s worth reading for a different perspective on the island and for loads of good photos. He is here now, adding new info and photos daily for the next couple of weeks. Read the translated version
Thanks to Ron for this photo taken a couple of weeks ago. The result was an hour’s wait until the driver managed to get his truck pointing in the right direction again.