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Taking Phuket tourists’ safety to heart

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Malika Chergui, 61, originally from Morocco, has been a Tourist Police volunteer for nine years. Before retiring in Phuket, she was a successful business and family woman in Italy. Now, she spends her time helping tourists alongside the Phuket Tourist Police. She patrols the streets of Patong every night from 9pm, using her language skills – she is fluent in Italian, Spanish, German, French, Arabic and speaks English well – to assist in any way possible.

Here, she talks about the importance of police volunteers and discusses what she believes are the biggest issues and most pertinent safety tips for Phuket tourists.

PHUKET: A lot of tourists come to Phuket, and local police are sometimes not enough when one of them needs help. Language differences pose a significant barrier when police are trying to sort out what has happened and what needs to be done.

Tourist Police volunteers can act as go-betweens, helping police and tourists understand each other.

I appreciate the effort Phuket police have made to help tourists, and that they have organized a group of volunteers to work with them. Some officers can speak English, but that does not guarantee that they will be able to understand what is being said, especially when tourists call them on the phone.

Tourists could help the police by being aware of their surroundings and staying safe while on holiday.

If I could offer my advice to all incoming tourists, I would suggest that they always keep a copy of their passport.

Also, I would advise them not use illegal taxis. Use registered ones, or use the taxis that the hotel provides. That way, the hotel can track down the driver, if something goes wrong.

Furthermore, I would urge tourists to check carefully before getting out of a taxi to make sure they have not left anything behind. If they must use a tuk-tuk, I would suggest they take a photo of its licence plate.

When renting a motorbike, it is very important to have a valid driver’s licence and to be an experienced rider. Helmets are also very important. They are designed to protect both drivers and passengers – so anyone riding a motorbike should always wear a helmet.

I think one of the biggest issues among Phuket tourists is fighting. Tourists come here to have fun, and there are a lot of people coming from many different countries. This sometimes makes it hard for them to get along – especially when drinking is involved.

Our job as volunteers is to calm them down, give them some water and assist them if they need to go to a hospital. We can also call an ambulance for them. Whatever the situation, we cannot – and will not – walk away.

Another issue I often see is tourists who are not properly informed about Thailand’s laws and regulations, and what services or activities they should avoid.

One example of an activity to avoid is renting a jet-ski. We have gotten reports many times from tourists that were scammed by jet-ski operators for “damaging” the rented jet-ski.

One way we can help tourists avoid situations like these is by encouraging police, hotel staff and airline staff to inform incoming Phuket visitors about what they should avoid while here, and to hand out safety tips.

We want them to have a great, safe trip and to keep coming back.

It is very important to me that people who are in trouble get the help they need, so that they can continue to enjoy the rest of their holidays. This is my favorite part of volunteering for the police, and what I find to be the most rewarding.

Just a few months ago, I was able to reunite an Australian boy with his family after he became lost on Bangla Road (story here). I was very touched by the event, and I thought to myself, “I love my job”.

I have been volunteering for nine years. My husband and I had been coming back and forth between Italy and Phuket for almost twenty years. We loved it here.

In 2005, my husband were in Phuket when he suffered from a heart attack and died. I had to do everything myself to get his body back to Italy for the funeral, despite being in the deepest state of grief. Nobody helped me.

I don’t blame anyone for what happened or for what I went through. But his death made me realize that this country needed help. So I became one of the first police volunteers on the island.

I am doing what I love. I help people as much as I can because it makes me happy. Every day I go home and pray, and am thankful that I am able to help people.

This is what I do, and I won’t give it up.

 

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