A Phuket Party Barge faces continued objections from Thai officials with their own agenda.
A Phuket Party Barge faces continued objections from Thai officials with their own agenda.

A Phuket party barge removed from Patong Bay earlier this year was raided again and told it won’t be allowed to open until it complies with even more red tape.

The Royal Thai Navy and a phalanx of Phuket bureaucrats staged the “inspection” of the Yona Beach Club at its new home off Cape Yamu April 5. It seemed obvious from comments before and after the raid that officials have it in for the French-owned business.

No illegality or irregularity was found.

Among the stuffed shirts inspecting the Phuket Party Barge were personnel from the Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Center Region 3, Kathu District Chief Thitiwat Bunkit, officers from Kathu District office, Thalang administrative officials, marine police, representatives of the Patong residents and “related agencies.”

The Phuket party barge was inspected for safety, waste management and anti-pollution measures. The Phuket Provincial Excise Office also joined the inspection to investigate the sale of liquor and tobacco, while the Phuket Provincial Office of Labor Protection and Welfare investigated the staff for “irregularities”, specifically whether the cooks were illegal migrant workers.

Capt. Krit Khluebmat, TMECC Region 3 deputy director, said officials provided advice and information to the operator, and further investigation will be conducted into whether the boat had already opened to the public.

Phuket Gov. Narong Woonciew expressed his concerns about the impact on marine resources and safety in the event of strong winds or waves.

Phuket Party Barge ‘Won’t Enrich Locals’

Krit also let slip a real motive for the harassment of the Phuket party barge: It would not generate income for locals. Unlike cruise ships, which generate income for local residents when their passengers come ashore, most of Yona Beach Club’s revenue from serving partygoers would stay with its owners.

Yona Beach Club is owned by a French businessman who has run a boat business in Phuket for about 10 years. He has jointly invested in the business with Thai partners. The modified boat was registered in Trang as a passenger craft by Phuket-based Yona Beach Ltd. It cruised from Trang to anchor in Phuket in June last year.

The Phuket party barge has Mediterranean and Japanese restaurants, a 20-meter swimming pool with private cabanas, sea beds, sunset terrace cabanas and other facilities. There is no overnight accommodation.

Krit said that the boat would not receive permission to operate if it does not pass all the laws, and clear-cut measures are needed to prevent impacts on marine and coastal resources.

Narong stated on Wednesday that he had discovered plans to open the beach club this month through social media, after a previous attempt was rejected by authorities in late January.

Narong expressed concerns regarding the impact of the party boat on marine resources and the safety of up to 500 passengers in the event of strong winds or waves. Operating licenses are also required for businesses based at sea.

Phuket Party Barge Meets Environmental Standards

Krit acknowledged that the ship’s waste0treatment system and swimming pool filtration system met general standards. Despite that finding, Suchart Rattanaruengsri, director of the Marine and Coastal Resources Office 9, continued to claim that the club’s opening would cause problems with waste management, and impact marine and coastal resources.

Krit then pointed to decorative materials he claimed were flammable and that there was no fire escape on the boat surrounded by water.

That point was not raised in earlier inspections, though it was reported after an inspection in January that the barge has six life rafts and several fire stations on deck.

The original plan was for the club to operate at Patong Beach during the high season and at Royal Phuket Marina during the low season. However, Phuket officials are yet to permit the club’s opening due their list of demands, which continues to grow.