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Rise in Phuket’s troubled teens

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Rise in Phuket’s troubled teens | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The director of the Phuket Juvenile Observation and Protection Center (JOPC) said she believes teenagers across Phuket are becoming more aggressive.

Rawee Kuhamooka told the Phuket Gazette that every year JOPC staff have to work harder to control their detainees. Ms Rawee’s comments come after a riot at the center earlier this month left the building’s grounds, cafeteria, therapy and treatment rooms in disarray.

Thirty-five juvenile delinquents tore apart furniture and discharged fire extinguishers in a riot that was only quelled after provincial police were called in.

“We can prove that [detainees] are more aggressive from how hard we have to work to control them,” Ms Rawee said. “Over the past several years we’ve worked harder than ever, even though the number of juveniles coming in the center is the same. Teenagers’ behavior today is characteristic of older criminals. Yet we still use the same soft laws and the same out-of-date methods to deal with them. This is why they’re never afraid of detention and are more likely to commit crimes over and over again.”

Every year, the Phuket juvenile center processes between 400 and 500 cases involving 15-17 year-olds who were convicted of committing a crime. Ms Rawee said the majority of the cases that are referred to the center involve possession of the category 5 narcotic krathom, followed by cases involving violent assaults and the illegal possession of a gun.

“Every day, we have around 30 to 40 teens in the center, who are overseen by about 10 officers,” she said. “The teens are divided into different correctional education classes based on the crimes they’ve committed.”

Ms Rawee said the detainees meet with a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, doctors, social workers and specialists within the first week of their arrival. Afterward, each detainee is categorized into low, medium and high risk groups, following a mandatory drug test and physical examination. Each detainee may spend no longer than 90 days at the facility.

“For teenagers, courts almost always give them the chance to come here first and almost never send them directly to prison,” Ms Rawee said. “More than 80 percent of our detainees are judged to be able to return to society,”

Ms Rawee said she believes the emphasis on treatment is not enough to deter those detainees deemed a ‘higher-risk,’ from recidivism.

“From my experience, I believe that family, society and our weak laws are the three main reasons our detainees are becoming more and more troublesome,” Ms Rawee said.


JOPC staff psychologist Phetcharat Phromphet told the Gazette that teenagers from divorced parents or troubled households are more likely to become aggressive, both at the center and out in society.

“It’s called imitation theory,” Ms Phetcharat explained. “If the kid is living with a violent or volatile family, they’ll internalize and imitate that behavior.”

“Teenage years are a time of change, and during that period they need a rational voice giving them advice, otherwise they will turn into their surroundings. If their family has problems, they’ll turn to their friends,” Ms Phetcharat said.

“On the other hand, if the family spoils their children, if the kids always get want they want, they’ll expect that in real society. They will dare to do anything to get what they want.”

A 17-year-old at the detention center, arrested for possession of marijuana and a gun, echoed Ms Phetcharat’s statements. The Gazette is withholding his name, as he is a minor.

“Actually, my mom knew that I was playing around with marijuana,” he said. “She tried to stop me, but I didn’t listen to her, I think because I’ve always been a little spoiled by my mom. I’m not afraid of her. And since she’s not always around, I still get to smoke.”

“My mom was very disappointed at me after my arrest,” he said. “I think, after I leave here, I will never do it again. If I do it again, next time I might not be taken here, but might go to jail. They gave me one chance already, so I have to be better.”

Ms Phetcharat said it doesn’t always take a volatile household or a pushover parent for teenagers to end up at the JOPC. Sometimes parents have no time to take care of their children, or they live far away from their kids.

“Teenagers are at that age where they’re still learning new things,” Ms Phetcharat said. “It’s the age of trying something new, the age of wanting to win or to be the best at something. Kids want to be recognized and appreciated by others, particularly by their peers.”

“Therefore, if they don’t live with their family, or if their family isn’t around to redirect them right away, the chances are greater that they’ll end up off-course,” she added.


After the family, society as a whole has large role in affecting teenagers’ behavior, Ms Phetcharat said.

“Phuket is a very diverse place, and there are a lot of foreigners and Thais moving here from other provinces to work and live. While that’s good for the economy, growing villages into cities means there’s more likely to be crime,” she said. “We can see that teenagers are moving here by themselves from other provinces to study, and that group is hugely vulnerable.”

“A high fluency in technologies like social media, also means that teenagers can access nearly anything at any time, which is another big issue,” Ms Phetcharat said. “This is part of the reason that they’re acting older than their age and more unexpectedly.”

Ms Phetcharat said that social media gives teenagers access to new friend groups, allowing them to try new things and access illegal substances or weapons.

Another 17-year-old who agreed to speak with the Gazette, said that he met his friends online and that they introduced him to drugs for the first time.

“I was arrested for krathom,” he said. “My parents work a lot, so I spend most of my time with friends. At first, I didn’t drink krathom, but when I started hanging out with them more often, I just wanted to try it.”

“The first time I was arrested and taken to the JOPC, I was very worried,” he said. “I heard from people outside that there’s a lot of hazing and pressure from the older generation inside and that the punishments were really harsh, but the JOPC is not like that. They teach us and change our minds a lot. I will never commit a crime again after I leave here. I think I’ve learned a lot here.”


Ms Rawee said she believes the teenagers under her charge are becoming bolder with each passing year. For her, changes need to be made in order to ensure that the JOPC can adequately focus on treatment and reducing recidivism.

“The most important part of this problem is that our laws are weak,” Ms Rawee said. “If the law is strict, people are deterred from crime, particularly teenagers. If we punish them harshly when they do wrong, they’ll be afraid of the consequences of doing it again.”

“Thailand’s laws give teenagers several chances,” she said. “The punishments are mostly just going to the JOPC, which isn’t much of a deterrent.”

But Phuket’s Provincial Police Commander Teerapol Thipjaroen disagrees.

“Laws and how we enforce them are at the end of the equation,” General Teerapol said. “The law gives teenagers multiple chances, as they are not old enough to think like an adult. This is an international standard and we cannot punish teenagers harshly.”

“Arresting teens isn’t our goal,” he said. “The real goal is to help them.”

— Kongleaphy Keam

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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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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer



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.


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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger



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.


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

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

The Thaiger



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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