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Jet-skis, rip-offs and noise pollution: Phuket’s honorary consuls go through the motions

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Jet-skis, rip-offs and noise pollution: Phuket’s honorary consuls go through the motions | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Jet-ski scams, noise pollution in Patong and real estate rip-offs were among the issues raised by honorary consuls during their quarterly meeting with Phuket government officers yesterday.

The meeting, held in the main meeting room of Phuket Provincial Hall, was chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Sommai Prijasilpa.

Dr Sommai, the first-ever person to chair the meeting in English, was filling in for Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha, who could not attend due to unspecified urgent business.

The consuls’ meeting was the first to be attended by a member of the United States diplomatic mission in Thailand.

US Consulate-General Elizabeth “Suzie” Pratt told the gathering that although the US uses a different system than most of the other countries and does not have honorary consuls, it still had the safety and security of US nationals in Phuket as its top priority.

Ms Pratt explained that the US uses a system of volunteer “wardens” whose role is similar to that of the honorary consuls in providing assistance to US citizens in distress.

On the topic of jet-ski scams, Australian Consul Larry Cunningham addressed new Phuket Provincial Police Commander Chonasit Wattanavrangkul, who was also attending his first consuls’ meeting.

Mr Cunningham asked the new commander if he was aware of jet-ski scams that include operators demanding compensation for pre-existing damage below the water-line that is not visible to the eye when the jet-skis are rented out offshore.

When the renters return the jet-skis to shore they are shown scratches and, in some cases, surrounded by as many as 20 “thugs” who intimidate them into agreeing to pay, Mr Cunningham said.

Maj Gen Chonasit said he was well aware of the situation after discussing it with the Phuket Governor. It was his understanding that the majority of problems came from operators who did not take out insurance on their boats, he said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Maj Gen Chonasit said police “only have the power to enforce the law and look after tourists”, but that they were often called upon to negotiate compensation agreements between renters and operators.

It was the responsibility of the local Marine Department Office to ensure that all jet-skis carried insurance, he said.

Both Mr Cunningham and British Honorary Consul Martin Carpenter raised the issue of uninsured jet-skis operating at both Surin and Laem Singh beaches, where current zoning regulations prohibit their use.

Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Chief of Phuket’s Marine Office 5, told the consuls that the jet-ski insurance scheme had “solved the problem already”, but that there were still some ministerial regulations that were in the process of being amended so that it could be better enforced.

As a practical solution in the short term, Mr Carpenter suggested posting signs at both Surin and Laem Singh Beaches warning tourists of the potential dangers of renting jet-skis there. The suggestion was accepted by Mr Phuripat.

German Honorary Consul Dirk Naumann told the meeting he had received complaints about noise pollution stemming from late-night fireworks in Patong. At least three different groups of German tourists had complained to him that the excessive use of fireworks late into the night had prevented them from sleeping.

Maj Gen Chonasit agreed to tackle the issue, promising action against both vendors and their customers.

Mr Cunningham also asked Maj Gen Chonasit if his predecessor Maj Gen Pekad Tantipong had explained to him the case of an alleged real estate fraud involving two Australians and a Swedish investor who claimed to have lost their life savings when they invested 6 to 14 million baht in a condo project.

Well aware of the matter, Maj Gen Chonasit said that a case against the property firm Modern Architecture and Design Corp had already been forwarded to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

Some of the consuls took the opportunity to thank government officers for swift action in cases involving their nationals.

“I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to Phuket Airport Director Prathuang Sorngkam and to Khun Sumalee Samphaorat, Director of Airport Services , for the wonderful assistance they provided to Australian tourists who were stranded recently as a result of the Air Australia collapse,” Mr Cunningham said.

Mr Carpenter thanked all the relevant agencies who assisted in the identification and repatriation of British national Mark Robson, who was found hanged near Freedom Beach in Karon late last month. Police determined that his death was a suicide.

The meeting ended with Maj Gen Chonasit asking the consuls to submit all queries to him one week in advance so that he could ensure prompt action and thorough replies in future meetings.

— Stephen Michael Fein

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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