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Opinion: Cyclocops roam

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PHUKET: THE recent launch of two-wheeled ‘Beach Police’ patrols at every police district on the island is a small, yet potentially positive pedal forward for a provincial police force that has developed a dubious reputation for ensuring tourist safety along our world-famous shorelines.

But it’s sad that the initiative, ordered by Police Region 8, had to come in direct response to the brutal slaying of two British tourists on Koh Tao in September last year. However, reactive measures are better than none at all when it comes to protecting the safety of tourists, who are not only the lifeblood of the local economy, but also guests in this country.

Despite many setbacks, Phuket has a positive record overall in terms of tourist safety. The millions of visitors to the island every year – both foreign and domestic – make the occasional tragedy almost statistically inevitable.

It goes without saying that having a few officers roaming about on mountain bikes will not be likely to have a game-changing effect on tourists’ safety. However, the bikes should give officers increased mobility and access to the beaches when on patrol.

The move might also help improve the officers’ fitness and make them more visible and accessible to the public. Given the results of our recent poll indicating that a majority of readers do not feel police can be trusted, any move aimed at improving their public image should be seen as a step in the right direction.

One important, yet often overlooked, component for tourist safety on the beaches was the presence of beach chair and umbrella rental operators. Many of these enjoyed a base of loyal, repeat customers who entrusted them to look after their belongings while in the water and heeded their advice to stay out of the water when red flags were flying. The rental operators also kept undesirable beach vendors at bay and helped their clients deal with many other difficulties.

Their removal from the beach, following orders by the National Council for Peace and Order, has greatly changed many aspects of a beach holiday experience in Phuket. It could be argued that a return of the vendors, under appropriate conditions, might do even more for tourist safety on the beaches than cops on bikes.

 

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