Opinion: Travelling responsibly

Lt Col Jetsada Junphum has been the chief of the Phi Phi Police Station since September. He graduated from the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School in 1997 and the Royal Police Cadet Academy in 2013.

Here he talks about the importance of travellers and their families being responsible in their communication with each other and the media.

PHUKET: Personal issues between travellers and their families can often lead to tension and miscommunication. It is very important that both parties be responsible and treat each other with respect in order to not let personal disputes turn into a media frenzy.

The latest incident with 21-year-old British backpacker Jordan Lewis Jacobs is a good example.
Mr Jacobs was reported missing by his family after they had lost contact with him for several days. However, he was found registering for a diving course here on Phi Phi, and simply didn’t want to go home.

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It was very irresponsible of him to let his family worry about him, when all he had to do was communicate with them about what he wanted to do.

People who travel, particularly alone, need to be adults. I don’t mean this in terms of age – I mean that they need to be emotionally responsible and mature. However, this goes both ways. Families of those who travel need to treat their family members as responsible adults as well. They need to understand that sometimes, communication is not easy on the road; family members need to keep a level head, should they become worried.

In cases where family members panic, the media can get out of hand. This leads to damaging effects on the area in which the situation is taking place.

For example, when Mr Jacobs went ‘missing’, some media outlets compared the situation here on Phi Phi to the murders on Koh Tao. It is seriously worrying that people can try and make a correlation based on such little information, and not think of the repercussions that these statements can have on the island’s reputation.

We really appreciate the fact that Mr Jacob’s family first contacted the embassy, who then, in turn, contacted us. If a family member is worried about a relative, there are ways to deal with the situation responsibly. Causing a media frenzy can spread false rumors that may actually hinder any investigation going forward.

Here on Phi Phi, we are very careful to take care of our tourists. It is very rare that there is a serious situation, such as rape or murder.

We are strict with our 2am closing time for all bars. We have officers patrolling the area at the time to make sure that all tourists get home safely, even sometimes helping them get to their hotels if they are too inebriated to do so themselves.

We also continually check in with resident hotel employees and tour operators to ensure that they don’t have any drugs or weapons, as that can lead to bigger crimes. And we make sure that both Thai and migrant laborers are working legally and strictly enforce their curfews.

We take responsibility for our tourists, workers and expats, and all we ask in return is that they take some responsibility for themselves and their loved ones, to keep Phi Phi a safe and respectable tourist destination for all to enjoy.

— Kongleaphy Keam


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