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Phuket Opinion: It’s everyone’s job to improve cyclists’ safety

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Opinion: It’s everyone’s job to improve cyclists’ safety | The Thaiger
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Danny Ruangkanch, 54, is a Narathiwat native. He graduated from the California College of the Arts 29 years ago, and spent 10 years working abroad before coming back to Thailand. He came to Phuket 15 years ago and works as a freelance artist and Moderator of Thaimtb.com. He joined the Phuket Bicycle Club in 2000.

Here he talks about how to make Phuket safer for cyclists.

PHUKET: When I joined the Phuket Bicycle Club in 2000, we had 75 members. Now we have 1,037 members, 57 of whom are women. More and more people are becoming interested in cycling in Phuket, I think mainly because people are more concerned about their health and are exercising more.

Still, I think there are lots more people who would like to cycle but don’t because they are scared. They think it’s too dangerous to ride a bike in Phuket.

Since I started riding here, I have not heard of a bicycle accident on the road. At the same time, I think Phuket roads could be a lot safer for cyclists.

The way I see it, making cycling a safe sport isn’t the responsibility of just one group: riders have to take care of themselves; drivers have to watch out for riders; and the government needs to do its part to create a safe environment for everyone.

Let’s start with the riders. I’ve seen plenty of riders who don’t seem to care about safety. Some don’t wear helmets and some don’t have lights on their bikes to make them visible to other traffic. I’ve also seen some bikers zig-zag in and out of the bike lane just for fun.

To increase safety, bikers should start with themselves. In the bike club, we ride in groups, which is safer than riding alone, and we also arrange activities to teach riders about safety.

The most important thing that vehicle drivers should do to keep cyclists safe is to remember to share the road – it belongs to all of us.

Vehicles that drive in bike lanes put cyclists at risk. So do drivers who drive too fast, and motorcyclists who ride in the wrong direction. Drivers need to stay aware that bikers are sharing the road with them.

Finally, the government also has an important role to play.

Originally, towns on Phuket were designed on a small scale with roads that were suitable for small vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles. Now, the towns have expanded into small cities and there are more and larger roads suitable for cars and trucks. There are also a a lot more vehicles on the road.

The government can do a lot to protect cyclists in this new scenario.

The first thing is to add bike lanes across the island. They should be at least 2.5 meters wide and they should be clearly identified as being for cyclists. The government should also maintain the bike lanes that already exist. Along some of them, the painted line separating the lane from the main road has almost disappeared. This might be one reason drivers don’t respect bike lanes – because they can’t see them.

The government should also teach drivers what the lanes are for. Just as they put up billboards to teach people to use helmets, they could put up billboards to teach people to respect bike lanes. Once people are educated, the police should punish those who don’t respect the traffic laws.

Thalang is a good model for bike lanes. Thepkrasattri Road can be dangerous during heavy traffic, but it is a good place to ride otherwise because of the bike lanes. Two rides I recommend are from Thalang to Sarasin Bridge and from Sakdidet Road to Cape Panwa.

If we work together, we can make Phuket a safer place for cyclists, and if it becomes safer, the number of riders will definitely increase.

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Is Koh Pha Ngan Thailand’s best island?

Caitlin Ashworth

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Is Koh Pha Ngan Thailand’s best island? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

OPINION

Koh Pha Ngan was voted third best island in Asia in the 2020 Condé Nast’s Readers Choice Awards. The island is widely known for its monthly Full Moon parties on Haad Rin beach, but Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto, who boasted about the island’s recent rating, said there’s more to Koh Pha Ngan than Haad Rin.

Condé Nast publishes a monthly travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, as well as GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue. It’s safe to say the publication’s target audience is more interested in luxury resorts than dirt cheap party hostels and monthly beach raves. For example, for the best islands in the United States, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina was voted number 1. It’s a golf lovers paradise and a popular vacation spot for suburban families.

A trip Koh Pha Ngan can be a completely different experience depending on where you go and what you do. Some stay on Haad Rin on the southeastern side of the island and have a trip like Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fueled “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” while some go to the western side for a yoga or healing retreat.

The Full Moon parties, which would draw more than 30,000 mostly foreign tourists, was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions in Thailand. But before the outbreak, the parties were known to be crazy with neon glow paint, fire jump rope and cheap buckets of alcohol and use of illicit drugs. The sand was so sticky that people were better off wearing shoes, and just about everyone pees (and pukes) in the ocean.

Even on the west side of the island, where it’s more known for yoga and meditation retreats, things can sometimes get a little weird. A tourist said she did a “spiritual healing” ritual on the island known as a kambo cleanse where secretion from a South American frog is applied to burnt skin. She said “I feels like you’re dying” but “it’s great.”

While the west side of the island has trendy resorts and bungalows, as well as a variety of yoga retreats and pricy vegan food, some people also live on a budget – a very tight budget. Some tourists even camped out on a hidden beach during the pandemic, a tourist claims. A local artist said he lives in a cave on the same beach.

Koh Pha Ngan topped Bali, Indonesia, which was number 9 on the list. Phuket was number 8 on the list and Koh Samui was number 10.

Here’s what made the top 10 Asia islands in the Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Awards 2020.

  1. Cebu & Visayas, Philippines 95.83
  2. Sri Lanka 95.45
  3. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand 95.30
  4. Palawan, Philippines 95.22
  5. Siargao Island, Philippines 95.19
  6. Boracay, Philippines 95.06
  7. Lombok, Indonesia 94.59
  8. Phuket, Thailand 94.12
  9. Bali, Indonesia 93.27
  10. Koh Samui, Thailand 92.73

SOURCES: Condé Nast | Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thanks for the COMMENTS, but…

The Thaiger

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Thanks for the COMMENTS, but… | The Thaiger

The Thaiger website is now receiving around 300 – 500 genuine comments a day (plus a lot of spam). We appreciate your engagement but, as you can imagine, it’s causing a few headaches as well, particularly in the current “situation”. To help us we would appreciate your following a few basic guidelines.

As it is, most comments are withheld for approval by a moderator. “Moderation” means us going through each comment and making sure there’s nothing that’s going to get The Thaiger, or YOU, into trouble. Not every comment is going to be approved.

Your IP Addresses and emails are stored in our server, but remain private information that will not be shared or sold.

At this time we need to keep a tight rein on all content on this website. Whilst we usually have a wide latitude in regards to free speech, we also have to protect our business and provide a “safe space” for everyone to express their views.

From an editorial point of view, The Thaiger won’t be taking any sides in the current protest coverage and will remain unpartisan. Other news outlets are welcome to take any stand they wish but our role will remain merely to pass on what’s happening, without fear or favour.

• Don’t include live links in your comments. They will automatically be unapproved. Whilst many links are a useful addition to your comment, a lot are just spam. Some are just unacceptable for reasons of liable or inappropriate content. Just copy and paste a passage from a site and quote it if you wish.

• Try and keep your comments on topic and about the story, and avoid making personal or defamatory remarks about other commenters.

• Criticism about the stories and our coverage is fair game. But avoid criticism about Thailand’s Head of State or making libellous or false comments about the Thai Government.

All we ask is a bit of common sense during this time so we can continue providing a free, independent news and information pipeline.

Editor, The Thaiger Pte Ltd

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Protests

How can the Thai government resolve the current protest crisis?

The Thaiger

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How can the Thai government resolve the current protest crisis? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: เยาวชนปลดแอก - Free YOUTH

OPINION

The Thai Government has no easy way out of the current protest situation.

Over the past months an organic, mostly young Thais, political movement has been building. It’s different from every protest movement in the past. The people attending the rallies don’t really align themselves or identify with the past political factions. They’re not red shirts or yellow shirts. They are new and say they’re seeking key changes to Thailand’s political system, and the role and powers of the Head of State.

Their demands – the standing down of the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, the dissolution of the Thai parliament, a new constitution to replace the 2017 Thai Charter and curbs on the powers of the Thai monarch – are unlikely to be met by the current government.

The protester’s 10-point manifesto, outlining their demands, pits them against a quasi-democratic government that includes many of the faces from its predecessor, the National Councilfor Peace and Order that removed the elected Shinawatra government in 2014 in a military coup. The leader of the coup, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, is now the prime minister, elected by a parliamentary majority. The entire upper house of the Thai parliament were hand-picked by the PM and NCPO, so a parliamentary majority is merely a formality.

There is little possibility the ruling government will concede to any of the demands of the protesters. They’re not going to simply step aside and hand over the levers of power to opposition parties. Whilst promising to convene an enquiry into constitutional reform last month, the parliament was unable to get the votes necessary and recommended a postponement. A postponement to an enquiry… blah, blah.

Thai politics has proved to be brutal over the past five decades with countless coups, periods of political instability, violent crackdowns on dissent and a 2017 constitution that guarantees that the status quo can continue, without the usual checks and balances in a modern parliamentary system.

But something else has changed this time.

The protesters are young and proving resilient and clever. There’s also lots of them.

Their defiance to the status quo has shocked the elite establishment. Everything is now being questioned, including the previously revered position of the Thai monarchy.

Just recall scenes over the past week…

• A royal motorcade driving right through the middle of a protest with protesters standing defiantly, metres away from the occupants of the yellow Rolls Royce, displaying the 3 finger symbol and shouting “our taxes”.

• People deciding to remain seated during the playing of the Royal Anthem which precedes all movies in Thailand.

• Usually compliant young Thai secondary school children displaying the 3 finger salute during the compulsory 8am school assembly and flag raising.

Even the public uttering of demands to change the role of the Head of State in Thailand were unheard of before this August.

Now, the genie is out of the bottle. What has been said cannot be unsaid and the young are now speaking about the issues openly. They’ve been emboldened by a government completely blindsided by the development and not knowing how to react to this new student-based voice. The only reaction has been the usual brute force.

Speaking to a young policeman, off the record, this morning. I asked how the younger members of the Thai police force felt when commanded to crackdown on their fellow young Thais. He said that there was a growing level of “unease” in the police and that it was getting more difficult to put their personal feelings to the side and act on the orders of their superiors.

The key problem now is that the young protesters face the Thai government and Army who are not adept at the skills of politics or negotiation. Chalk and cheese. Their upbringings are different, their experiences are different. The young say their seeking democratic reform. The establishment are trying to protest the status quo and the privileges they enjoy.

There is little room for negotiation.

The only way forward for the government will be crackdowns, curfews and brute force, most of which will attract almost universal condemnation from other governments and onlookers.

Simply, and starkly, the government are in a lose/lose situation. There are few ways they can extract a ‘win’ out this situation. To force a brutal crackdown on young, unarmed protesters will make them pariahs in a world of modern civilised governments. To do nothing, and allow the protest movement to fester and grow, will simply push their final demise a bit further down the road.

The only way out, to save face and diffuse the situation, would be to call an election. But with the current parliamentary set-up, the odds are stacked in favour of the current rulers to seize back power, again. Do you really think the Senators will step in to force a new election? Sack the PM? By precipitating the writing of a new constitution they would be effectively doing themselves out of a cushy, paid job. It won’t happen.

Everyone wants a peaceful resolution to this current situation but the stakes are high, and sustainable, realistic solutions are thin on the ground.

The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the staff and management of The Thaiger.

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