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Phuket disgrace: plastic pollution in the Andaman

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket disgrace: plastic pollution in the Andaman | The Thaiger

PHUKET: My concerns over plastic pollution were stimulated anew by an excellent analysis in the China Daily called ‘Drowning in Plastic’, and also by the cover story in a recent edition of the Phuket Gazette in which a seasoned local fisherman expressed surprise at the decline in fish catches in our seas.

The main contributor to that story – the president of the Phuket Fishing Association – believed the weather to be the principal factor in fish depopulation, as well as “restrictions on fishermen”. Both analyses are very questionable. The source also blamed “pollution and waste… from hotels” that was more to the point. But the ‘P-word’ was never mentioned in his analysis.

Anyone interested in ecological issues knows that the principal culprits for the catastrophic decline in marine life in Thailand are the triple evils of over-fishing, including poaching; inadequate regulation of the industry at all levels, including human rights issues and abuses; and pollution.

For decades, weighted trawl nets have scoured the shallow bottom of the Andaman Sea, removing not only entire colonies of fish, but all its benthic life, including deep-water coral, sea grass and bottom feeding molluscs and crustaceans. There has been no effective control over net mesh sizes, hence the sad mountains of tiny fish in markets – evidence that the next piscine generation has already gone the way of all flesh.

As for marine pollution, it is daily becoming an issue in Phuket, with inadequate waste disposal systems chucking thousands of tons of raw sewage into the sea.

On neighboring Phi Phi Island, there is no sewage plant at all. Apparently one would cost 300 million baht, and the island, despite its huge revenue from tourism, cannot stump up the money.

A shocking 83 per cent of liquid waste is discharged straight into the sea. “Our only hope is that hotels, restaurants and other businesses act responsibly,” declared Punkum Kittithonkun, president of the Ao Nang OrBorTor on April 10.

Most of the coral in the Andaman Sea has already gone. Add land run-off, where 95 per cent of Phuket’s agricultural pesticides and herbicides end up, and it’s easy to be frightened about what we’re doing to that vast sink we call the ocean.

Mangrove swamps, which used to fringe most of Phuket and its surrounding islands, act not only as nurseries for most species of marine fish, but as giant filters for effluence. They are literally losing ground to developers.

Among many others, current cases concern several marinas here in Phuket and in Krabi, where one of them is alleged to have widened a klong (canal) through the mangroves from three to 50 meters. Imagine how many trees have perished.

Effluents themselves have a profound effect on oxygen levels, and all aspects of ocean life. Increasingly in Phuket, we are getting jellyfish warnings – Surin Beach just last week was warned of several sightings of Portuguese Man O’War. Apart from delivering nasty stings, jellyfish are potent enemies of our environment, devouring plankton, fish eggs and small fish. The blow to plankton alone should be alarming, as the tiny collective organisms do more than anything else to sequester carbon and produce oxygen – a life-support system for everyone on the planet.

This brings us to the ‘P-word’. Plastic pollutants are one of the biggest problems, not just in Thailand, but worldwide.

By 2050, says a reputable UK organization, the oceans will be “expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight).”

A report by the American environmental group ‘Stemming the Tide’ identified five countries – all Asian and including Thailand – that contribute between “55 and 60 per cent” of all plastic found in our oceans. Ninety per cent of all plastic that is produced annually is thrown away.

Ironically, the fishing industry in Phuket is one of the worst local offenders. All the garbage from these boats is simply jettisoned overboard.

On ‘International Coastal Cleanup Day’, the most frequent beach litter and sea pollutants – all plastic – were reported as follows: over 1,000,000 food containers, 1,000,000 drink bottles, and 1,000,000 bags. Caps and lids came in at 690,000, straws and stirrers at over 600,000 items.

A recent study concluded that 8 million tons of plastic waste flow into our oceans every year, enough to cover one foot of every coastline in the world.

A University of California study recently showed that fish in the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year. Oceanographer Erik Van Sebille, from London’s Imperial College, concurs: “There is so much plastic in marine animals at the moment. In almost every fish and bird that is cut open for science, we find plastic.”

So what, as concerned individuals, can we do to ameliorate this global problem?

The first and most important statement we can make is to reduce our dependence on the stuff. Plastic is one of the main by-products of an affluent society, and developing Thailand is particularly culpable.

Take your own re-usable bag when you shop, avoid plastic cling-film and polystyrene containers for your fried rice and coffee. Use your own mug at Starbucks. And support any initiatives to reduce plastic packaging. Tesco Lotus in Thailand tried and failed, largely for want of public support.

Stop buying water in plastic bottles. Every year, 20 billion are tossed in the trash. If you are worried about the quality of tap water – as you may be in Thailand – consider buying a filtration unit. It will quickly pay for itself.

It is a point almost too obvious to make, but we need to remind ourselves to recycle where and when we can. And it can be done. True, different kinds of plastic complicate matters.

Nonetheless, most kinds are recyclable. And if you don’t trust the refuse truck, then save your cast-offs for the local trash collectors, who will gladly take them on their bulging samlors to a proper disposal facility.

At sea level, there are promising initiatives to skim the plastic from the ocean’s gyres where so much of it ends up. At the end of the day however, prevention is better than cure. We must produce less plastic.

And if we must have plastic, then, for the planet’s sake, don’t manufacture so much of the single-use, disposable stuff. This material is the single largest contributor to marine plastic pollution.

The irony is that such a practical and ubiquitous material invariably outlives its usefulness; in the blink of an eye, plastic has become a massive scourge rather than a benefit.

— Patrick Campbell

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

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Phuket

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit

Tanutam Thawan

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Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | The Thaiger

VIDEO & SCREENGRAB: M Today

The Palang Pracharath member of parliament from Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, had an argument with Lt Col Pratuang Polmana, Deputy Superintendent of Karon Police during his inspection to the controversial Peak Condominium in the Karon area of Phuket.

MP Sira was surveying the construction site of the project and the sales office, which also serves as a coffee shop, where he saw Lt Col Pratuang inside.

He stopped there and asked why the Deputy Superintendent didn’t send any officer from Karon Police Station to provide security for him, a standard protocol when parliament members visit a specific area.

The MP had publicly stated he had received death threats for revealing ‘problems’ with the ‘paperwork’ for the Phuket condo project that he claims has been built on land without the proper documentation.

Lt Col Pratuang said that he already prepared a team of officers to provide security for the MP but they were waiting for a confirmation. Then the MP asked his team to record a video of the conversation and said that, while he was not threatening anyone, he believed the police must respect and offer protection for a government MP who comes to work in the area, which was then followed by an argument.

There was a “middleman” who eventually separated the Deputy Superintendent and pulled him aside to calm him down. The ‘police whisperer’ then came back to apologise to the MP before they went inside the coffee shop for further private talks.

Read the original article about the allegations against Peak Condominiums in Karon HERE.

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | News by The Thaiger

The Peak Condominiums in Karon, currently under investigation after allegations made by Government MP Sira Jenjaka, who claims death threats have been made against him over the matter.

 

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Patong

How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park

Tim Newton

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How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park | The Thaiger

A rant…

Started off with trying to exit the Jungceylon carpark in Patong, Phuket, late on a Sunday night. After watching a film in their tawdry cinemas, I was assured by ticket sales staff that I should present my ticket stub with the car park card for free exit.

Getting to the exit gate and I was told I had to go to an ‘elevator’ to get my ticket stamped. As there were already three other cars behind me (it was around 9.30pm at this stage), it caused quite a kerfuffle and tempers (mine included) were starting to fray.

The poor woman at the exit booth (whose key work skill must be ‘patience’), kept yelling ‘elevator, elevator’, doing little to inform us what we were actually meant to do. (I wanted to leave a car park, not go on an elevator?!?).

Anyway, minor ‘misunderstanding’ sorted out soon enough, and returned to my car to exit the car park (about 10 minutes later).

A Russian man had had his own adventures with the Jungceylon car park the night before. Firstly he was stuck there on the Saturday night with a flat battery in his white sedan. As it was very late, and wanting to get home, he left the car in the space and took a taxi.

As I was sorting out my own car park ‘misunderstanding’, other car park staff assisted him with his flat battery by jump starting his car. The assisting staff were given a gratuity, I don’t know how much.

But on reaching the exit gate he was told he had to pay 1,800 baht. (Presumably for around 24 hours of car parking).

With his fist full of receipts, around 3,300 baht worth, he was also told ‘elevator, elevator’. He got out of his car, there were another three cars backed up behind him at this stage, and went to find the ‘elevator’. Upon returning he was now told he had to pay 2,600 baht! How the amount had magically inflated to 2,600 baht remains a mystery but the cark park ‘gatekeeper’ was not to be messed with.

By this stage about eight young Thai gentlemen, with name tags, keys hanging from their belts and hand-held radios, had turned up to ‘assist’ in addressing my complaints and ensuring that the Russian man was not able to leave the car park before paying the 2,600 baht. The only common language among the Russians and the Thais in the situation was English and it was not going well.

Google Translate was getting a fine workout but wasn’t really helping.

During the extended ‘negotiations’ the cars behind were detoured around and allowed free exit.

Given the man’s travails in having a flat battery, having to come back to the steamy car park late on a Sunday night, the cars piling up behind him and the loss of face for just about everyone at this stage, the ‘smart’, good PR thing to do would have been to thank him for spending 3,300 baht at their expensive shopping centre, lifted the boom gate and waved him on his way.

But no, these young Thai car park staff wanted their pound of flesh and there was no way in the world that barrier was going to be lifted until the man had paid every baht he ‘owed’. Three police turned up to try and sort things out but all departed in exasperation, knowing the car park staff were being pig-headed but unable to intervene because they would have caused their fellow Thais a loss of face.

At this stage the Thai car park staff were already starting to utter things under their breath and spitting out ‘farang’ in their deliberations.

During the entire two hour drama many other cars had the same issue of not understanding that they needed to report to the bottom of one of the ‘elevators’ to have their receipts stamped. There didn’t appear to be any signage or understanding of the procedure (until, of course, you go through this rather drawn out lesson in Jungceylon car park procedure). There was a sign outside the elusive ‘elevator’ but given there are seven other exits from the car park you’re unlikely to see them.

Apart from Jungceylon losing the patronage of at least two, or more, customers over their overly-officious and unprofessional behaviour, the system will surely remain unfixed waiting for the next stupid ‘farang’ to stroll innocently into the underground farrago.

The only bright light in the dingy car park fiasco was the pleasant young gentlemen sitting at the ‘elevator’ with his stamps and gracious smile, wearing full eye make up and blissfully unaware of the surly car park Nazis. He profusely apologised but I am fairly sure he was none-the-wiser about my lengthy explanation of the situation.

Give the man a pay rise!

For Jungceylon, I would urge better signage, in a few languages (it IS a tourist town), to inform us about their rather opaque car park procedures.

I did ask for a statement to include in this story from some of the ‘people with hand radios’ or a comment from the Manager. But there was none forthcoming. Our forum remains wide open for a response from management.

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Patong

Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety

Tanutam Thawan

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Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Lifeguard Service

A commemoration ceremony has been held for Prathaiyuth Chuayuan, a local Phuketian who helped drive Phuket’s first beach lifeguard services. He passed away on Friday morning after a heart attack.

He first experienced chest pains whilst delivering his daughter to school in Phuket Town on Friday morning, drove himself immediately to the Vachira Hospital nearby but succumbed to cardiac arrest around 9am.

He was 57 years old.

He worked with Australian lifesavers to help train local lifeguards and improve the skills of the Phuket’s beach enthusiasts, and finally sought international accreditation for the growing body of competent Phuket lifeguards.

The Phuket Lifeguards Service, founded and run by Prathaiyuth and his wife Witanya, saved innumerable lives each year whilst battling Provincial Hall and local government for increased funding in annual contract negotiations.

Daren Jenner, a FOT (Friend of The Thaiger) and local safety officer for the International Surf Lifesaving Association, sent a message to us expressing his deepest condolences to Prathaiyuth’s wife, family and friends.

“I had many good conversations with him over the years. He was a good-hearted man who did his best in difficult and changing circumstances. A very big loss for Phuket and the lifesaving community here. ISLA sends our deepest respect for his long commitment to ocean safety in SE Asia.”

Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger

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