KRABI – About 200 small-boat operators at Pipi Islands off Thailand’s southern province of Krabi gathered on Saturday in protest of foreign yacht owners who have allegedly stolen away their tourist customers.
The local islanders, who provide their “long-tailed” boats for hire to foreign tourists at Pipi Islands, one of the country’s world-renowned tropical archipelagos in the Andaman Sea, urged the foreigners, who also offer their luxury sailboats for hire in competition against local boatmen, to stop doing so.
“We are local people who make a living with our boats for hire to the tourists, many of whom would prefer foreign yachts which are so luxurious, carry more passengers and sail further than ours. We already found it hard to make ends meet during low season. Even worse, we encountered unfair competition with the foreigners,” said Suchin Chamnina, one of the protesters.
While the local boats can carry a dozen passengers, the foreign yachts can accommodate up to 30 passengers, he said.
He said the foreign yachts had begun to vie with the local boats since last year with many more expected to come.
Some of the yacht owners, mostly from European countries, married Thai women and became permanent residents in and around Pipi Islands, off Krabi province.
The protesters removed advertising banners and signs of the foreign yachts at various spots on the islands and planned to file a complaint with the provincial authorities shortly. Police scrambled to maintain law and order on the islands where no violence was reported as yet.