Tourism development in Thailand can be a messy business, as the rules of engagement are rarely followed and money always talks louder than words. Repeat visitors often find that the quiet haven of yesteryear is today's all-singing, all-dancing hotspot, even if it happens to be in a protected zone. So when a government official declares that a delicate marine park is to be nurtured as a sensitive, high-end eco-destination, it should be cause for celebration. That was the vision outlined recently by Thailand's deputy prime minister, Pinit Jarusombat, for Phi Phi, the butterfly-shaped island made famous by actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach. Of all the Andaman Sea islands, Phi Phi was among the worst hit by the tsunami that struck the coast last December. At least 700 people died there, many of them foreign tourists trapped in the narrow lanes built on the island's isthmus. Entire resorts were levelled by the waves, and left fit only to be pulled down and rebuilt. In the terrible aftermath, an inspired grass-roots movement sprung up to repair the damage and put the islanders back in business. Foreign backpackers, alerted by word of mouth and e-mail pleas, jumped into action and bent their backs to the sweaty task of clearing up the debris, both on land and in the harbour. When I visited in May, the organisers told me that over 2,000 foreigners had pitched in to help Phi Phi, and more were expected to follow. Given the image of backpackers as lazy hedonists, it was exhilarating to see the young volunteers hauling away rubbish and laying bricks. Their presence also created a market for the locally owned guesthouses, bars and restaurants that were trying to start again. However, the new plan will do little for the small businesses that the backpackers were so anxious to help. Instead, the government wants to reserve Phi Phi for affluent people prepared to spend hundreds of dollars a night. 'Middle-class' tourists - the term used by the Thai media - will only be allowed to visit as day-trippers. The island's fragile environment clearly suffered from the breakneck development before the tsunami struck. So there's a strong case to be made for limiting numbers and trying to upgrade facilities to handle the waste generated. But the latest plan is a tragedy for the tsunami survivors who do not work at big resorts. The deputy prime minister said his plan would secure the environment and natural beauty of Phi Phi. But you can't miss the point that it will also be a boon for the wealthy businessmen who run the large resorts where high-end tourists will be steered.