Finally, the “party zone” issue on the island of madness, formerly also known as Koh Phangan Paradise Island, has received nation wide recognition by one of Thailand’s leading newspapers “The Nation“ Thailand’s biggest business daily.
Saturday 22nd March 2008 the friendly and supportive team of un-corrupted and un-censored journalists, Oliver Benjamin and Phoowadon Duangmee, from the Thailand nation wide newspaper The Nation, took an even closer look on current “Party Zone” activities on Koh Pha-Ngan Island in the South of Thailand.
Beneath the troubled Moon!
Suddenly Koh Phangan’s rave parties are being shut down early. Is this a peace that will last?
The residents of Koh Phangan and the backpackers who gravitate there see the full moon differently. For the visitors, it’s the signal for a wild and possibly once-in-a-lifetime beach party. For the citizens, it means yet another sleepless night.
The once-quiet little fisherman’s island in the Gulf is now world-famous for the full-moon rave parties that can draw 20,000 young travelers – and plenty of money.
The sheer variety of moon-theme parties on Phangan is amazing, each one touted on loud psychedelic flyers and posters all over the island – the Half Moon, the Black Moon, the Shiva Moon – and each one a bacchanal of all-night techno music, half-naked foreigners and unabashed drug and alcohol indulgence.
The problem, of course, is that not everyone on Koh Phangan wants to dance all night and sleep on the beach all the next day. Most residents are involved in agriculture and everyday commerce and like to get to bed early.
The fat-moon parties used to be lawless enough that huge signs advertising “special mushroom omelettes” and “amphetamine tea” were tolerated, but the local cops began cracking down on drugs and other craziness in the mid-1990s.
Residents of the village of Baan Tai wrote to the governor of Surat Thani last November, complaining that the parties were depriving more than 100 households of sleep.
“What’s worse is the drug dealers who hang around the guesthouses pushing marijuana to the tourists on party nights,” they said, adding that theft was becoming common and more sober-minded tourists were shunning the island.
Then, last Saturday, right out of the blue, everything changed.
The police showed up at the Half Moon Party in Baan Tai and ordered the organizers to shut it down because it was “after hours”. The next night they did the same at the Baan Sabai Day party.
The exact cause for the policy change wasn’t immediately known but, given the massive amounts of money involved, local residents are skeptical that the mandate will hold.
Nevertheless, they see it as a welcome development – a signal that someone is listening to their complaints – and a good precedent for future protests.
“The governor of Surat Thani is concerned about the complaints,” says Colonel Wuthichai Hanhaboon, head of the Koh Phangan Police Station, “so the police stopped several parties and ensured that the revelers would cause no trouble.”
Generated by huge loudspeakers, the dance music can shake the ground for a kilometer in all directions, and for years it seemed to have deafened everyone in authority to whom complaints were directed.
The administrators of Baan Tai School complained about the Black Moon party, and the event was moved into the dense woods of Baan Khai jungle – but attendance dropped, so it was promptly shifted back to its original location.
There was considerable publicity when an irritated nun at Wat Khao Tham managed to shut down the Shiva Moon party, but then she mysteriously withdrew her objections and the techno-thunder resumed as usual.
“We try to bring some order to the parties, but the organizers don’t listen – they’re making a fortune,” says Threerayuth Plaisuwan, head of the civic administration in Baan Tai, home of the original full-moon parties.
“They get Bt300 per ticket, and the corrupt authorities get a Bt100 cut to turn a blind eye to the problem.”
Thus, a handful of people on Phangan bank a bundle of cash from “techno-tourism” while the vast majority suffer the headaches and sleepless nights with nothing to show for it.
“The communities earn hardly anything from the parties since we can’t tax the organizers,” Threerayuth says. “And then we have to pay for the beach clean-up afterwards too!”
A “party zone” has been suggested. Instead of staging the events in or near the central villages of Baan Tai, Baan Nok and Baan Nuea, organizers could get together and carve out a specific area in the dense jungle environs some distance away. Choosing a spot behind natural hillside would muffle the sound.
Critics of the monthly noise assaults find it ironic that the raves are festooned with messages of multiculturalism, tolerance and “getting along”. It’s a message the locals wish the revelers would take to heart – so they can get a decent night’s sleep.
Below a scan from the original newspaper article published Saturday 22nd March 2008