The group, consisting of Chinese nationals, had participated in an organized diving trip originating from Koh Racha island, situated near the popular vacation destination of Phuket. Disturbing images depicting their actions, including trampling on the reef and handling starfish, were brought to public attention after being shared by an organization dedicated to monitoring eco violations in Thailand.
Thai Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-Archa revealed that two of the individuals have confessed to the offense, voluntarily surrendering themselves to the police. However, local media reports indicate that the third suspect is currently missing. In an effort to locate all three tourists, authorities have collaborated with the tourism police, the maritime office, and the travel company responsible for organizing the ill-fated trip.
If convicted, the visitors could face a prison term of two years, in addition to a fine of 200,000 Thai baht (equivalent to approximately GBP 4,460). The travel company, which had only been in operation for two months, issued an apology for the incident. They also pledged to raise awareness about the importance of refraining from interfering with marine wildlife.
This event is not an isolated occurrence involving Chinese tourists in Thailand. In 2020, two Chinese tourists were detained for using a spear gun to capture protected ornamental fish while snorkeling in central Thailand. Similarly, in 2019, South Korean actress Lee Yeol-eum faced charges for collecting endangered giant clams in a Thai national marine park during the filming of a reality TV show.
Marine experts emphasize that more than three-quarters of Thailand's coral reefs have suffered significant damage due to rising sea temperatures and uncontrolled tourism.