Tourists who take selfies at this country's airport beach can face the death penalty
Tourists who visit Mai Khao beach on Thailand's island of Phuket may want to think twice before taking a selfie.
Located near Phuket International Airport on the island's northwestern coast, Mai Khao beach has been a popular destination for thrill-seekers who can watch planes fly extremely low before landing on the airport's runway. Airport officials, however, have voiced concerns that taking selfies can distract pilots and have threatened the maximum penalty—death, in this case—for those who don't stop immediately.
Authorities have discussed ways to close off the area adjacent to the runway, which has become known as "Unseen Phuket." Deputy airport chief Wichit Kaeothaithiam met with provincial officials earlier this year and said that a new safety zone is currently in development.
"People and tourists will not be allowed to enter this area to take photos," he told the Chiang Rai Times.
Specific details regarding the zone were not provided, but tourists and locals can still visit the rest of the beach, where picture-taking is welcome.
"The airport wants to boost tourism revenues, but at the same time, it must make sure there will not be any problem with aviation regulations," Kaeothaithiam told The Phuket News. "Tourism and safety must co-exist."
Though there is no concrete evidence that taking a selfie poses a direct danger to pilots, a report revealed complaints over the use of drones and laser pens on the beach, according to the Daily Mail. Anyone found guilty of purposely disturbing the pilots is subject to punishment under the country's Air Navigation Act.
"The penalty for anyone failing to comply with this regulation includes the death penalty, a life sentence, or a jail term of between five to 20 years, as per the Air Aviation Act 1978," airport director Monrudee Gettuphan told The Phuket News.
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Since the announcement of the safety zone, the beach's locals have raised objections, claiming that creating a restricted space will hurt business. Many work under a community project that allows locals to operate food stalls and drive tourists from a car park to Mai Khao's most heavily visited area.
"If the beach is closed, we will have serious problems because many tourists simply will not come," Winai Sae-io, head of a local entrepreneurial stimulus program, said. "I want [Airports of Thailand, which operates Phuket International Airport] to look at us and support locals in making [a] living here, too."