Visitors to Thailand’s national parks may get a package delivered right to their doorsteps. But it’s not a souvenir, it’s the trash they left behind.
Thailand’s environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa ordered rangers in the popular Khao Yai National Park a few hours from the capital Bangkok to send trash to a recent visitor who littered in hopes it will serve as a warning to others.
Though COVID-19 has slowed Thailand’s bustling tourism industry to a crawl, the park has been popular with domestic tourists and foreigners still working and living in the country since it reopened in July.
Reports of visitors littering along the favorite hiking and camping site first circulated on social media and reached Varawut, who was angry at what he saw.
“I can’t tolerate this action,” Varawut told VICE News in an interview on Friday, Sept. 18. “I was furious and my first reaction was to send it back to whoever was dumping it.”
He told the rangers to collect the trash, which included plastic bottles, bags of chips and what appears to be a butane gas canister, and mail it to a tourist registered in the park’s visitor log for that day.
The suspect, a Thai national from the country’s upper-central region, will not only get the surprise delivery but could also receive a fine.
“I instructed the park rangers to collect the garbage and ship it back to the person, with the message saying, ‘You have forgotten some items at the camping ground so we kindly return it to you so you can deal with it,’ he said.
The environment minister’s move earned praise from local residents who expressed outrage over the irresponsible behavior of some tourists.
“My intention was to send a very loud and clear message: If you’d like to come visit our park that belongs to all of us, you need to take good care of it,” the minister said.
Trash left by tourists in popular camping sites and natural parks have caused the deaths of some animals, he added.
Last year, a deer was found dead after ingesting seven kilos (15.4 pounds) of trash in a national park in northern Thailand. Authorities found men’s underwear, coffee sachets, plastic bags and ropes in the deer’s stomach.
Highly publicized deaths of marine mammals including dugongs and whales have also pushed the country to try and eliminate the use of single-use plastics in a nationwide campaign that started in January at supermarkets. But the effort was derailed by the pandemic.