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Rolling boulders crash into Phuket resort

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The management of an upscale hillside villa resort in Phuket has filed a police complaint after huge boulders tumbled down from a road construction project last Saturday, causing property damage and frightening guests.

Wassana Yukhunthon, public relations manager at the luxury L’Orchidee Residences off Phra Barami Road Soi 4 at the north end of Patong, told the Phuket Gazette that a room maid cleaning one of the 27 pool villas heard the boulders crash into the unit next door at about 2pm.

“She went to check the house and found that a big boulder, some smaller ones and dirt had fallen down the hillside and into the resort. She called us to come and see what had happened. As we examined the damage, we heard what sounded like a bomb as another boulder crashed into a nearby villa, she said.

“Rushing to see what happened, we found that a two-tonne boulder had rolled down the hillside and into the resort, coming to rest next to a pool,” she said.

As it rolled down, the boulder caused extensive damage to everything in its path: a balcony, cement staircase and floor, trees, sun loungers and a parasol.

“Also, some of the wood shattered by the boulder splintered off and flew like darts toward the road about ten meters below the house,” she said.

Managing Director Jean Jacques Gramond said, “Think what would have happened had people been walking or driving past at the time. They would have been seriously injured.”

It didn’t take long for the resort management to pinpoint the source of the rock slide, Ms Wassana said.

“Our one workers went up the hill via the soi next to Family Mart and PA Cable TV on Phra Baramee Road, about one kilometer away. He found a construction project underway. It looked like they were building a road up the hill.”

“He got the construction workers’ numbers, so we called them down to our resort to show them the damage. Patong Police officers were present when we called them. Then we all went down to Patong Police to report the incident,” she said.

According to the report, 34-year-old Prasert “O-pal” Auksornprommarat hired the excavators that were responsible for the damage. Several more dislodged boulders remained up slope, precariously supported by tree trunks.

Mr Prasert agreed to pay all damages by restoring the villas to their original condition and cleaning up all the debris.

Thanachart “Aod” Pibuncharoenpol said, “We were hired by Khun O-pal to operate the backhoes to help build a shrine to the goddess Guanyin. Construction started about five months ago, and it will take a long time to finish,” he said.

Venerated by East Asian Buddhists, Guanyin is a Bodhisattva associated with compassion. Shrines to the goddess built by the ethnic Chinese Thais can be found all over southern Thailand.

Mr Thanachart accepted his own responsibility for the damage.

“The day the rocks rolled down we had a new backhoe operator from Phang Nga who didn’t realize there were some houses down the slope. I didn’t tell him about that, so he pushed the rocks down,” he said.

Paving of the new road is already underway, he said.

He downplayed the risks posed by the dislodged rock still up-slope from the resort.

“The rocks still supported by trees are just small ones, not above knee height. We have been doing this construction for five months and this is the first incident like this we have had, even though it has rained heavily many times,” he said.

“I will not lie to you. A lot of rocks remain, but we have a way of preventing them from going down the slope by digging out small pits to bury them in,” he said.

“We can fix everything for them. We are just waiting for the go-ahead. I am not sure what they are waiting for. All they need to do is make a list of the damages and we will fix everything and remove the rocks,” he said.

Ms Wassana said the resort intends to have them do exactly that, but not until an engineer is brought in to assess whether there is any structural damage.

“Actually we told them about that already,” she said.

The Phuket Gazette called Patong Municipality, which is responsible for construction oversight, but was told that they had yet to be informed of any problems at the site.

Mr Thanachart insists the road construction is legal.

“The land has the right documents. If it didn’t, I would never have taken my 3-million-baht backhoes up there,” he said.

Ms Wassana said the resort was lucky there were no casualties.

“Nobody was staying in the first house that got hit. Another villa hit by a boulder weighing a few tons was occupied by a British man here for Muay Thai training. Fortunately he was still asleep in his bedroom, as he would normally have been out by the pool at that time,” she said.

“We had to move him to another villa as he fears more rock slides,” she said.

The resort has also had to bear the cost of providing alternative accommodations to seven other families who booked rooms in the area at risk, she said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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International Schools

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

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Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket | The Thaiger

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai. Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally in which 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

Somkiet Sarasin, the Chalong police leading investigator of the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, in which both denied the charges. Somkiet says the 2 were released on bail, but did not confirm the amount of bail that was set by the police.

“They are still staying in Thailand. I am not worried. I have their passports. I am not available to explain [any details] because the investigation is still ongoing.”

“This is normal for an investigation when the suspects deny the charge against them. I have to check more information against their claims. This case will probably be concluded next month.”

However, the investigation has yet to begin, with Somkiet saying he has not even questioned the owner of the school, despite his claims the case would be finished next month.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

Such allegations of foreign teachers working illegally have recently been in the news after Sarasas Witaed Sainoi Pitiyakarn School, in the central province of Nonthaburi, saw 7 foreign teachers probed for being hired illegally. That school, along with others in its private network, made nationwide news after CCTV caught a Thai teacher hitting, pushing and dragging a young student in the classroom. Such widespread violence against students has long been a sad component of many Thai schools, in which some of the teachers are unqualified and unlicensed to teach, but are hired anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Tourism

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend

The Thaiger

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Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | The Thaiger

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that Phuket has received a much-needed 300 million baht boost over the 4 day long weekend with around 54,000 tourists flocking to the island from last Thursday through to yesterday.

Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, reports that the average expenditure per visitor was about 5,500 baht, which was higher than the average spend for a Thai tourist to Phuket 2 years ago. She also noted that random checks on hotels showed that occupancy rates climbed to about 35%, with most guests staying 2 nights. But most of Phuket’s hotels remain closed.

Nanthasiri also says that many of the tourists concentrated themselves in the Phuket Old Town area, especially around Thalang Road, Phang Nga Road, and Dibuk Road in order to enjoy at the Sino-Portuguese shophouse architecture and historical locations. In fact much of Phuket Town, including its many markets and alley eateries, were doing roaring business, The Thaiger can vouch for the heavy traffic, on the roads and footpaths, over the past 4 days.

“This special holiday made Phuket tourism livelier, even though it was not as same as the situation before the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In fact, despite the welcome surge of visitors, it was still a long, long way from its previous tourist levels with much of the west coast, which has largely catered for the international tourist traffic, was still very quiet in places like Patong, Kata and Karon.

Phuket wasnt the only destination that has profited off of the long weekend as Chiang Mai saw droves of Thai tourists visiting its Royal Park Rajapruek as well as the northern city’s other nearby national parks and tourist areas. Visitors came from all over to see the blossoming of flowers in a beautiful display at the park as well as enjoying the air-purifying flowers as they relaxed. Tourists were able to rent a bicycle for 60 baht if they wanted to exercise while taking in the scenery and could also pay a visit to the orchid greenhouse, which hosts a variety of orchids in bloom. TripAdvisor recommends to set aside 2 hours to visit the park.

Next holiday weekend, on November 27 and 28, Pattaya is expected to get a tourism boost as its annual fireworks festivalis set to bring in travellers who have taken advantage of package deals offered by some beachside hotels. Such packages were offered for advance bookings, where holidaymakers could view the firework shows on the rooftops of their hotels. The firework displays are said to be long with breaks of entertainment-packed shows, featuring live music and student bands amongst others.

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

The Thaiger

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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