Recent closures of outside “attractions” like beaches in Pattaya and parks in Bangkok have driven widespread anger and even confusion on English and Thai language social media over the past several days.
This follows the announcements from both Bangkok and Chonburi that they will comply with CCSA guidelines to allow dine-in at local restaurants, with rules, but both areas opted to continue all other provincial restrictions, like the closure of gyms, tattoo shops, cinemas, etc. Most notably, Chonburi kept their restriction of beaches open for “exercise only” while Bangkok kept an overall closure of public parks. Bangkok’s restrictions run until at least the end of the month while Chonburi’s rules are until further notice.
The Chonburi beach restriction, which is ordered as “open for exercise only” varies greatly depending on the beach. Some beaches allow people to walk on the sand or swim, and some, like Pattaya Beach, are closed entirely to people who wish to walk by the water with officials spending entire days chasing people off the beach. On Jomtien Beach, trucks can be seen going by often with loudspeakers, asking people to stop sitting, keep moving, and get off the sand. Meanwhile, Bang Saray has taken a softer approach, allowing people in and around the beach area and water but not to eat, gather, or drink alcohol. These variances in rules and definitions of “exercise” have driven many comments and anger to The Pattaya News and on social media.
As for Bangkok, the ongoing ban on public parks in an area with little green space has driven particular anger from residents now forced to jog, walk, and run on city streets. Many critics have stated that the closure actually makes them have to be exposed to more people in a closer capacity as they are running on crowded sidewalks and areas versus a spacious public park.
Bangkok officials have only stated that the closure of parks is primarily to stop people using it as a gathering point or illegally drinking alcohol or throwing parties in parks, not to stop exercise. Critics of this point of view, however, have argued that parks could easily have patrols and enforce people against gathering and socializing, leaving the area open for much-needed exercise.
As for beaches in Pattaya, Chonburi officials have previously stated part of the reason for the closure (which also puts hundreds of umbrella and beach vendors out of work, an occupation that is informal and has no job protection) is to “discourage” people from coming from other provinces to relax on the beach and potentially spread Covid-19 in the province. Although most comments agree that this particular point of view makes sense, they also argue that it would be easy to patrol the beaches and ensure people are in small groups while banning alcohol. Some “netizens” have stated that simply allowing swimming or walking on the sand, but not sitting or gathering, would be a better approach.
Swimming pools remain closed in both areas, Chonburi and Bangkok, at one of the hottest times of the year, notes The Pattaya News, which means many residents wanting to go for a swim on local beaches to cool down cannot.
Additionally, the closure of local beaches has also driven residents to travel themselves, with many reports on social media of people driving to Rayong where the beaches are open and more relaxed.
For now, beaches and parks remain essentially closed until further notice for normal usage, despite the unpopular measures.