PHUKET, Thailand -- From the chaos of the tsunami will come more order than has ever been known on Phukets Patong Beach, according to a senior Thai official.

Sakthip Krairiksh, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, is charged with planning the reconstruction of Patong Beach, the center of tourism on the resort island. He is at work on two initiatives directly resulting from the Dec. 26 tsunami.

The first is an evacuation plan that can empty the beaches of people within 10 minutes of a tsunami warning.

The second is an improvement initiative that will permanently evict the vendors who sold snacks, souvenirs and other goods and services to tourists from shacks lining the beach.

Krairiksh, who was the Thai ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 to 2004, said that the shacks were illegal but that enforcement was lax.

All were swept away by the tsunami, and the official said that plans have been approved to build a central marketplace for vendors.

The beach itself is actually now more beautiful than it was before, he said, noting that the tsunami covered the beach with fresh sand and that the water is considerably clearer.

As part of the improvement plan, Krairiksh said, the government also will issue standards for the use of beach umbrellas.

A visit to the Patong waterfront found that some of the vendors are already back, not on the beach but across the road, squatting in front of damaged businesses that have not yet reopened.

About 70% of the waterfront businesses are repaired and back in operation, about 20% are undergoing reconstruction and about 10% are in ruins and showed no indication that repairs were underway.

To contact Editor-in-Chief Arnie Weissmann, send e-mail to [email protected].

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