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Greed jeopardizing tourists’ safety, says Racha group

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Greed jeopardizing tourists’ safety, says Racha group | Thaiger

PHUKET: Reckless speedboat captains and tour guides chasing day-trip commissions have been named as the leading culprits jeopardizing tourists’ safety at Koh Racha, a popular day-trip island south of Phuket.

Sarit Jandee, president of the Racha Conservation Club, blamed tour guides for encouraging day-trippers to swim and rent water-sports equipment on the west side of the island, which at this time of year has rough surf.

“The guides don’t warn the tourists about the big waves and there might be only one guide for 60 tourists. They can’t look after everyone because the tourists separate.

“When the day-trippers get into trouble in the sea, they also endanger those trying to help them… We have no lifeguards on Racha Island,” he said.

The problem was exacerbated by the increasing number of tourists visiting the island, he explained.

“Even in the low season, there are 800 to 1,000 day-trippers every day,” said Mr Sarit, adding that two Chinese tourists have drowned at the island in the past nine months.

More tourists mean more speedboats, which drop off visitors and moor in swimming areas, and therefore need to operate with care. However, Mr Sarit said, some captains “are more interested in fun than tourists’ safety”.

“They approach the beach fast and turn fast when they are near the shore, without regard for swimmers and snorkellers,” he said.

Mr Sarit raised the issue on Friday at a meeting chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa.

In light of speedboats threatening tourists’ safety, Vice Governor Sommai advised establishing zones where the boats can moor and drop anchor and other zones where tourists can swim safely, Mr Sarit said.

On the environmental front, Mr Sarit reported some improvements since Vice Governor Sommai visited Koh Racha Yai in February.

He praised garbage management at The Racha hotel, and noted that The Racha had installed a new wastewater-treatment system. Baan Raya, he said, was setting up a proper method of disposing of grease in kitchen grease traps.

In addition to praising several hotels on the island, V/Gov Sommai repeatedly noted at the public meeting that the Rayaburi, one of the biggest resorts on the island, was failing to meet standards.

Rayaburi is still not disposing of garbage properly, she said.

“They transfer their recyclables to the mainland infrequently, which means they end up burning much more than they should on the island,” she said.

The Rayaburi and one of the smaller resorts on the island continue to release untreated wastewater directly into the sea, she added.

And Mr Sarit leveled a third charge, beach encroachment, against the Rayaburi, saying that it still had a big wall along the beachfront.

In February, Vice Governor Sommai put Phuket Marine Office chief Phuripat Theerakulpisut in charge of beach encroachment issues, but Mr Phuripat did not attend the meeting on Friday.

“His representative said he knew nothing about the wall,” Mr Sarit said.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for August.

— Saran Mitrarat

 

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