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Ferry death toll rises to nine

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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KOH YAO: Nine people drowned when the overloaded passenger ferry Rungroj capsized and sank in heavy seas off Naka Island Saturday afternoon. One person is still missing.

Of the nine dead, five were children and three others were women.

The 13-meter vessel had left Bang Rong pier in Thalang District and was bound for Koh Yao Noi at about 3 pm when it was pummeled by waves whipped up in Saturday afternoon’s sudden rains and heavy winds.

An official at Koh Yao Hospital told the Gazette that the confirmed death toll reached nine when rescue workers this morning pulled the body of 14-year-old schoolgirl Tiparat Pinyo from the sea.

Phuket Police helicopters and vessels from the Marine Police, Customs Department and Navy as well as local fishing boats, which were first on the scene, all took part in the rescue effort.

Of the survivors, 56 of the 63 who received treatment at Koh Yao Hospital have already been released. Eleven people with serious injuries were transferred to Wachira Phuket Hospital.

A Marine Police unit salvaged the ferry yesterday. Although licensed to carry just 22 people, it was overloaded with about 70 passengers, along with 10 motorcycles and other cargo.

Koh Yao Police Station Superintendent Pol Col Weerasin Khwanseng said yesterday that ferry captain and owner Dol Rerngsumthorn had contacted the police to arrange his surrender and will face charges of reckless conduct leading to death and injury

Phuket Marine Police Inspector Pol Maj Prasert Srikunnarat told the Gazette that while some passengers were wearing life jackets, others were not.

One of the Rungroj survivors, 34-year-old Koh Yao resident Chanida Romin, told the Gazette from her hospital bed at Wachira Phuket Hospital, “It happened at around 3 pm. There were strong winds and heavy rain. I had come over to Phuket and was on my way back home.

“The captain told us not to panic. He also warned us not to all go to the same side of the boat, otherwise it could capsize. Then a woman said that we had to abandon ship, because the boat was filling up with water, but nobody believed her.

“However, after that, the captain himself was the first person to jump into the water. The crew told us to jump though the windows into the sea. By then the water was up to our knees. It was complete chaos as everybody struggled for life jackets [because there were not enough].

“Everyone managed to get off, but not everybody had a life jacket. I had one, and found myself in the water with two other people. One of them also had a life jacket but the other didn’t. The two of us could only watch as she was pulled under by a large wave. She drowned right in front of our eyes.

“We floated out there for about an hour, and I prayed to God the entire time to rescue us. Eventually we were rescued by a long-tail boat. Last night, I was up all night vomiting up sea water.

“I hope all the relevant government agencies will take action to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” she added.

The Rungroj capsizing was not the only emergency situation on Saturday afternoon.

Col Weerasin told the Gazette that the Phuket Marine Police also received a distress call from Koh Pai.

“That night, while we were working hard to search for survivors, we received a report that 70 tourists were stranded on Koh Pai. Their ferry was unable to return them to Phuket because of the storm.

“We sent a Marine Police boat to the island and were able to get them all back to Phuket safely,” he said, adding that the stranded tourists included both Thais and foreigners.

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

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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