“Guns at the ready’ over Phuket jet-ski dispute

PHUKET: Officials in Phuket are stepping in to stave off a potentially lethal situation brewing over three unregistered jet-skis being rented out to tourists at Bang Tao Beach, on Phuket’s west coast.

Adding to the fury of the other jet-ski operators at the popular tourist beach, all of whom are members of the “Phuket Jet-ski Club”, is the claim that the new jet-skis for hire are run by a foreigner using a Thai as a front man.

“We need the relevant officials to solve this problem soon. I’m afraid that if we let them deal with this alone, it may get out of hand and could even come to a fight.

“I have even heard that guns are ‘being prepared’ if anything bad happens,” said Ma-ann Samran, president of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor).

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Mr Ma-ann explained his concerns to a meeting of officials called together yesterday to stave off potentially serious conflict over the dispute.

“The three jet-skis have been in operation for three months now, but according to the Phuket Governor’s order, no more jet-skis are allowed to be operated in Phuket.

“The three jet-skis – which are believed to belong to a foreigner with a Thai local person in front – are not among the 286 registered to be operated in Phuket. It’s against the agreement that has already been set,” said Mr Ma-ann.

He added that there are 38 jet-skis currently in operation at Bang Tao Beach, run by 11 operators.

Phuket Marine Office Chief Phuripat Theerakulpisut explained that the three jet-skis are not among the 286 currently allowed.

The new number of 286 jet-skis now allowed to operate in Phuket accounts for the 219 previously allowed and 70 more being illegally operated and fostered into the system with no penalties levied against the lawbreakers.

Chief Phuripat added that the Marine Office fined the operators of the three jet-skis only last year because the machines were registered in Samut Prakarn province and offered for use only in the Gulf of Thailand.

“Officers from the Cherng Talay OrBorTor found out and informed the Marine Office,” he said.

“After that incident, the operator of the three jet skis applied to the Marine Office in Samut Prakan to be allowed to operate the three jet-skis in the Andaman. However, I sent a letter to the director-general asking that the request be denied in order to support Phuket’s policy of no more new jet-skis.

“The Marine Department Director-General, Thawanrath Onsira, supported my request and the application to allow the jet-skis to operate in Phuket was denied,” he explained.

Chief Phuripat added that the proposal to allow rental jet-skis be registered under a special category in Phuket – so they can be included in a special insurance scheme – was also now with the director-for consideration.

He also said that operators have asked the Marine Office to be able to rent skis at more locations in Phuket, including a new rental operation at Koh Maphrao and even more jet-skis in Patong.

But at the meeting at Provincial Hall yesterday, Anusorn Salae, president of the Bang Tao Jet-ski Club, asked that no more jet-skis be allowed to operate anywhere in Phuket.

“It will only lead to trouble in the future,” he said.

“If jet-skis were banned in Phuket at the beginning, there would be none in Phuket now. But we already have them, so we should have them controlled,” said Mr Anusorn.

Chief Phuripat said he would consider Mr Anusorn’s request.

At the end of the meeting, Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer Chaiwat Taephee asked officials in all the relevant agencies to arrange meetings with involved parties (including the Cherng Talay Police, Tha Chat Chai Police and the Phuket Marine officers) to further discuss how to manage the recurring problems in controlling the ever-increasing number of jet-skis.

— Atchaa Khamlo

Phuket News
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