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Island View: Learning to accept your mistakes



PHUKET: I must admit that my knowledge of Phuket is limited to what I’ve experienced in the year that I’ve been here, but I can easily say that I like what I’ve seen so far. Admittedly, Phuket has its fair share of problems, but for an island with a rapidly growing population and countless visitors all year round, that is to be expected.

That is why it bothers me when people take a stab at anything and everything they encounter here. Take the governor’s letter published in the April 30-May 6 issue of the Phuket Gazette, for instance.

The governor spoke of how tourists should learn to respect Thai culture and avoid going around shirtless. It’s a simple and reasonable request, so I expected people to understand, if not appreciate, where he was coming from. But the backlash of criticism genuinely surprised me.

People were quick to point out all the issues they felt the governor should focus on rather than criticizing foreigners for everything. My point is, he’s using this forum – the voice of the Gazette, that is – to send a message about respecting Thai cultural values and I feel we should learn to just take criticism where criticism is due, rather than just voicing our discontent all the time. Yes, I know the traffic in Phuket is bad and jet-skis are a nuisance, but that’s besides the point here.

Tourists are just that at the end of the day – tourists. They certainly have all the rights and privileges that are their due, but they cannot expect to get away with things that are simply not to be stood for.

If the powers that be say you must not sunbathe in a bikini in a public park, then you should just respect that and put some clothes on. I know that my more experienced counterparts will pin me down as being naive and new. “When you’ve been on the island as long as we have, you’ll see what we mean. Things simply don’t change around here,” I’ve heard many a time.

Well, I say things might change if we change. Next time you shake your head at a pile of garbage somewhere, think about the role we might have played, however small, in bringing that about. It’s easy to lay blame at someone else’s door, but far harder to acknowledge that perhaps there’s something we can do to rectify the situation.

— Sahar Aftab Paliwala


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