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You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that the recent coup in Thailand would have a negative effect on tourism in a country that is always at the top of every holidaymaker’s wish list. However, on the island of Phuket, the new military regime may have just saved one of Thailand’s biggest attractions: her beaches.

Phuket is the largest island in the country and one of the most popular destinations. Spend some time here and it’s easy to see why: she is blessed with long stretches of white, sandy beaches and inviting turquoise seas. The island may have suffered greatly at the hands of 2004’s devastating Tsunami, however tourists have returned in larger numbers than ever to show just how beloved this island in the Andaman Sea is. Today, the island is a veritable tropical paradise and the luxury resorts in Phuket offer all the facilities to guarantee the holiday of a lifetime.

Yet all this popularity came at a price and put incredible pressure on the beautiful beaches of Phuket. The waterfront became a sea of sun loungers, beach bars and even beauty salons. These services, which sprung up to cater to the tourist dollar, were unsanctioned – since beaches are legally defined as public property in Thailand they should be free from any private business.

But Phuket is more than 800 kilometres from Bangkok and reportedly rife with corruption. For the law enforcement in the capital, Phuket has always been that little too far away.

Cut to May 22, 2014 and Phuket’s natural beauty may have found the most unlikely saviour in the form of army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Months of political deadlock came to an end as he took the reigns of Thailand. One of his first priorities as the new leader was to clean up Phuket’s beaches and soldiers were sent to the island to crack down on illegal beach businesses.

The damages caused by years of abuse have now been erased in a few days and both locals and visitors to Phuket’s luxury resorts can finally see the islands famous sand again.