Thai diving sites closed to protect coral reef

Thailand has shut down 10 popular diving sites in a bid to slow a coral bleaching crisis, an official said yesterday.

The diving sites lie off beaches stretching from Rayong province in the east to Satun in the far south.

"The coral reefs are affected by tourists - when they go diving they may touch or step on the reef. Closing those spots will help the reefs recover naturally," National Park Officer director Reungsak Theekasuk told AFP.

Mr Reungsak said the closed diving sites will be inspected ahead of the peak tourist season, which starts in November.

"Where we see there is still a crisis, we will have to keep the area and reefs preserved," he said.

The parks department also recently ordered the closure of Koh Tachai, a popular island in the Andaman Sea, to let it recover from environmental damage caused by overcrowding.