Thailand Beach Cleanup

Armed Thai soldiers and local officials inspect the Patong beach during a clean up operation Wednesday, July 9, 2014 in Phuket. Pic: AP

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s military junta has sent soldiers to one of the country’s best-known beaches to clear out food stalls, massage huts and other illegal vending operations as part of a campaign to clean up the country’s image.

More than 100 soldiers in military fatigues trudged Wednesday along the white sands of Patong Beach on the southern island of Phuket.

Local district chief Sayan Chanachaiwong said their mission was to clear the vendors, who for years have cluttered the wide beach, making it nearly impossible to walk.

Since staging a coup May 22, the military has led a crackdown on crime, corruption and lawlessness, which it says have to stop before democracy can be restored. The junta has said it plans to carry out reforms before holding new elections around October 2015.