Three Thai tourists have been fined Bt1,500 (S$62.84) each for sitting on a mountain coral at Mu Koh Surin National Park in Phang Nga.
After pictures of two women posing picturesquely while sitting on a large mountain coral – apparently in Ao Mae Yai Bay in the Surin Islands – went viral on social media, Mu Koh Surin National Park chief Phuttipot Kuprasit said on Thuesday the Thai tourist and two others had already been detained and fined for violating park rules.
Phuttipot said officers found the group shortly after they were informed of the wrongdoing. All three were Thai tourists who were fined Bt1,500 per person, he added.
“The tourists said they misunderstood. They believed that the coral was a normal rock, but we clarified that it was actually mountain coral, so they apologised and admitted to their offence,” he said.
“We have no tolerance for people stepping on or touching the coral and feeding the fish, as it is against the park’s rules, and we have strict measures and officers to monitor tourist activities. However, we cannot observe all the tourists’ activities, especially when they are under water, so I would like to thank all good citizens who help us watch over our natural treasures.”
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a leading marine biologist of Kasetsart University, said Ao Mae Yai Bay formerly had one of the largest coral reefs in Thailand, but due to severe damage from several incidents of coral bleaching, the area off Mu Koh Surin National Park had been closed to the public since 1995 to let the coral reef rehabilitate itself.
He added that tourism activities and touching the coral disrupted the reef’s recovery, because such activities could affect the growth of new young coral and endanger the entire reef.
“I believe that there are many beautiful locations in this national park where tourists can pose and take pictures without harming the underwater ecosystem,” he said.
Phuttipot said the area where the tourists had taken photos was not inside the restricted area of Ao Mae Yai Bay, but in an area designated for diving.