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Power to the guards

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Power to the guards | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Following an effort to stomp out life-threatening recklessness on Phuket’s beaches, lifeguards and Karon Police have joined forces to help prevent beachgoers from entering dangerous waters.

With the new initiative, lifeguards will now inform police officers of any unruly or disobedient swimmers or visitors.

“If lifeguards can’t stop tourists from swimming, we are ready for them. We can be there to help talk to the them,” said Lt Col Pornarong Karnorachai of Karon Police. “We believe that they will be calm and more apt to listen to us, so that we can save them from entering the dangerous currents.”

In the past, swimmers who neglected lifeguards’ warnings would be met with a barrage of whistles and commands, and in worse-case scenarios, have a jet ski laden lifeguard ride up to them and urge them out of the water.

Kata-Karon chief lifeguard Uten Singsom highlighted that the power of police authority is necessary on today’s beaches.

“Sometimes fights can break out when a tourist doesn’t understand English and is ignoring our warnings. It’s good to know that the police will be available to help us,” he said.

Col Pornarong noted that if someone is unable to communicate in English or Thai, the force has volunteer interpreters who can speak several languages to help diffuse hostile situations.

Karon Beach was marked as the deadliest beach on Phuket after eight people drowned between October 2012 and September 2013, including one of Thailand’s best-known graphic designers, Pharuephon ‘Tum’ Mukdasanit, also known as ‘Mamafaka’, said Karon Police Superintendent Weerawat Jantarawichit.

Last year, Kata and Karon were responsible for half of the island’s drowning deaths, confirmed Nararit Touyon from the Tourism Department of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization.

Even so, Col Pornarong explained that the police have no intention of pressing charges against angry tourists unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“If a tourist becomes disruptive, they will be taken to the police station to calm down. They may need to sign a report stating that they have been aggressive or drunk,” Col Pornarong said. “And we will explain to them that if they are involved in an accident after being warned, this document will be attached to their file and, in some cases, may cause them or their family members difficulty when filing insurance claims.”

Karon Beach Officer Lance Corporal Pitsanu Singhara assured that beach police have the full authority to arrest anyone who breaks the law and are able to remove tourists from the beaches if they are aggressive or drunk.

“If we see it is necessary to get the tourists to calm down, we will do so,” said LCpl. Pitsanu. “Even though those of us patrolling the beaches are there for only a few hours at a time, lifeguards will always be able to reach us if they need assistance,” he said.

Col Pornarong confirmed that the Beach Police are currently patrolling both Kata and Karon beaches every day and night and will also be trained in life-saving skills.

Though police will be trained to assist in an emergency, Mr Uten noted that it would not be their duty to jump in the water and save swimmers.

“We do not expect police to help rescue people from the water,” Mr Uten said. “The fact that they are there to help us prevent people from swimming in dangerous areas is already a huge help.”

“But if that day comes, it’s good to have more people who have life-saving skills on the beach.”

Col Pornarong admitted that there will always be a few glitches to work out in the beginning, but is confident that once the adjustment period is over, everything will run smoothly.

The Beach Police initiative was first presented to the public by Phuket Provincial Police Commander Patchara Boonyasit last November, as he wanted to have officers on the beach to serve and protect tourists.

Later that same month, the first group rolled into action in their polo shirt uniforms, mounted on their patrol bicycles.

“Phuket is a famous tourist destination that has many beautiful beaches and we want to ensure people’s safety while they are here,” Maj Gen Patchara said on the day of the launch. “Safety is our top priority.”

Gen Patchara has given his full support to the new lifeguard-police initiative.

“Although we have the Karon Police and Beach Police on patrol, I don’t think it’s enough. Having lifeguards and police work together and share their skills to help prevent accidents on the beach is a great idea,” Gen Patchara told Phuket Gazette. “It will help move the police network forward, as police may not be able to be on the beach all of the time.”

Gen Patchara also urged tourists to obey the warnings of lifeguards rather than involving the police or risking their lives.

“Please do not ignore the red flags. It’s all for your own safety. We see a lot deaths because people ignore warnings. Please follow the rules so that you have a safe and happy trip on the island.”

Watcharin Pathomwatanapong, chief administrator (Palad) who heads the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) and Karon Mayor Thawee Thongcham were not aware of the new efforts set forth by the police and lifeguards, though they both said they could see nothing but good things coming from it.

— Chutharat Plerin

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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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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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