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Chinese divers charged after handling starfish, climbing on coral off Phuket coast

PHOTO: Matichon Online

Look, take pics, enjoy. But don’t touch. That’s the rule when it comes to tourists enjoying Thailand’s marine life.

Two Chinese tourists have been charged after photos and video of them handling a starfish while underwater went viral on social media. According to a Phuket Express report, there were 3 Chinese tourists in total, who were seen touching and holding marine life.

However, only two, named as Qin Sanyang and Zhang Wen, have turned themselves in, with the police still searching for the unnamed third tourist.

PHOTO: MGR Online

The offences were highlighted by environmental campaigners behind the “Monsoon Garbage Thailand” Facebook page. The page shared the photos, which it says were taken at Koh Racha, just off the coast of Chalong, in the south of the island.

“Illegal tour companies with illegal tour guides are around Racha Island. This particular incident was on Thursday, (June 22) in the afternoon. We received a video clip from a good Samaritan. Divers in the video clip appeared to pick up a starfish and took photos. Some divers even climbed on coral reefs.”

The post quickly went viral, attracting the attention of the caretaker minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Varawut Silpa-archa, who ordered an investigation.

The tour company the Chinese tourists booked through has been described as cooperative and has a legal operating licence. It’s understood the Jinyang Holiday Group is a newly-formed company and the incident happened on its first ever tour.

The firm has issued an apology and described the incident as a valuable lesson. It’s not known if the company will be prosecuted. Meanwhile, under marine coastal laws, the two Chinese tourists could face up to 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 200,000 baht.

SOURCE: The Phuket Express

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