Tourism remains Phuket's number one economic indicator, and ask any of the island's many visitors what was the deciding factor in their decision to take their holiday here, and more often than not the answer is the beaches.
While we have a myriad of tourist attractions, a growing number of golf courses and marinas, two large shopping centers, spas and international medical treatment, the key demand generator remains these stretches of white sand where the waves make landfall.
As of late, both the national and local media have sparked a good amount of interest in issues ranging from land developers limiting access to local fisherman, to the potential for marinas to damage the marine environment, to recent reports of the new Provincial Governor being denied beach access as he was conducting low profile inspections.
Read between the lines and clearly there is a witches' brew of issues boiling under the surface concerning the course of development being conducted here, and the strange bedfellow it makes with local commerce and the wider community.
More worrisome, perhaps, is the undertone taken on a broader class issue, being rich versus the poor, and the exploitation of natural resources for personal financial gain.
These are topics that are not going to go away, and this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is shaping up to be a long term challenge for Phuket.
From a legal perspective, all of Thailand's beaches are public.
Here in Phuket, no construction is allowed within 30 meters from high tide, and while encroachment is supposed to be reported to the building control department and the police, many such reports are now being addressed directly to the Governor's office for resolution.
The Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand specifically addresses public land and includes not only beaches but also highways, waterways and lakes .
The geography here often makes access an issue as many resorts, such as Le Meridian and Amanpuri/Chedi, have natural boundaries that restrict locals from simply walking onto "the beach without passing through private property.
While the environment and protection of the livelihood of those living below the poverty level are admirable objectives, shouldn't the same zealous campaigns be conducted in respect of squatters whose restaurants and shops lay within the public domain, illegal beach chair rental businesses, and the dangerous, and occasionally fatal,jet-ski and para sailing operations?
Arguably, these block the way of locals wanting to enjoy a beach picnic, and there have been large-scale, international protests about jet-skis damaging marine life, which ultimately affects the fish population and, in turn, the welfare of fishermen. Look at Prince Edward Island