Ferry Koh Chang, which operates the car ferry, between Ao Thammachat on the mainland and Ao Sapparot on Koh Chang, brought its services to a halt on August 11th in protest at a land encroachment decision, which ordered the partial demolition of one its its piers.
Completely taking the authorities by surprise, Koh Chang Express Co, the ferries’ parent company, shut the ferry early afternoon, with all passengers already on board requested to disembark and their tickets refunded. Company workers laid the blame for the inconvenience squarely at the feet of the park officials, citing their order for the pier to be shut.
All vehicles and passengers were diverted over to Centerpoint Ferries further up the Laem Ngop coast, resulting in long queues more reminiscent of Songkran and New Year.
The flash strike was called off at 5.00pm after uncomfortable negotiations between Koh Chang Express executives and Koh Chang district chief Kamthorn Waehon. National Park chief Veera Khunchairak in particular heavily criticised the ferry company for attempting to “divert a legal issue” by halting its service, citing it as a completely wrong move.
“The park treats all business operators equally which have encroach upon its land,” Mr Veera said. “This is the second time a notice has been put up at the Ao Sapparot pier, but the operator remained stubborn and did nothing. ”
Ferry Koh Chang has been given three months to enact the demolition order of all structures deemed to have encroached on either National Park land or illegally into the ocean. Failure to comply will mean the authorities stepping in to carry out the order themselves.
We will keep an eye on developments as they are likely to coincide with the onset of the main tourist season.
The encroachment order is part of a wide ranging review of building structures and their legality across Koh Chang. Such reviews have been carried out in the past, with little discernible action taken but this time, the authorities do seem to be serious on enforcement.