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Special Report: Paddling against child abuse

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Paddling against child abuse | The Thaiger

PHUKET: A great white shark knocked Damien Rider from his paddle board during one of eleven shark encounters he faced as he paddled 800 kilometers from Rainbow Bay, Gold Coast, to Bondi Beach, Sydney, in January 2015.

However, the demon that he was battling wasn’t below the ocean’s surface, but in the vivid world of abuse that he endured as a child.

Now, 33 years after he was first scarred by the violence of his mother’s boyfriend, he is doing everything in his power to raise awareness of child abuse throughout the world.

Mr Rider’s latest effort lands him in Phuket, where he is training at Phuket Cleanse and Thanyapura before embarking on a circumnavigation of the island – a four-day journey by standup paddle board – for his self-funded organization: Paddle Against Child Abuse (PACA).

While training, Mr Rider is also sharing his story with many students on the island, such as those at Phuket International Academy.

“From the age of six, my mom’s boyfriend came to live with us. I never grew up with a father, so he was the only man who came into the house,” Mr Rider said.

“My introduction to him was [the sight of] him beating police on the front lawn and then coming in and bashing my mom and then grabbing us and throwing us.

“It happened week after week. All the time I would just have to brace myself.”

The rest of Mr Rider’s childhood was filled with more abuse, and his constant attempts to flee it: sleeping in rock caves and under jetties – anywhere that he could escape to.

“The problem is that the bruises go away, but the emotional scarring lasts a lifetime, which is where the post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] comes in. With PTSD, things from everyday life trigger those emotions from back then and put you back in that space.

“I was on a roller coaster of life really, just going through drugs, alcohol, everything to try to suppress the feelings and the emotions, the memories and just the visuals that come into your head.

“I had successful businesses, and I tried every way to make myself happy by making money, and that didn’t work,” Mr Rider said.

However, the tipping point came when Mr Rider opened up to someone about his childhood and didn’t get the response he needed.

“After going through many years of it, I had a breakdown and considered suicide as a final option to stop the pain and thoughts from my childhood.”

Instead, Mr Rider realized that he needed to face PTSD head-on, so that he could perhaps someday inspire past and present victims to speak out about it.

“I knew I was making a conscious decision to break the barriers and break the cycle I was in,” Mr Rider said.

That’s when he, who had been a lifelong skateboarder and surfer, took to prone paddle boarding, spending hours in physical pain, completely alone in the ocean, as he propelled himself forward with only his hands. But swelling up with that physical pain was the emotional pain of his childhood.

“It was pretty tough on me at the start, plus you are out in the open ocean, feeling quite vulnerable. There is no protection, no security blanket, just you and the ocean. Anything can happen and you just have to kind of go with it.

“Once I found my peace, or I thought I had, I decided to do my paddle to inspire victims. I had thought about doing things for kids before, but thought it would be hypocritical, because I hadn’t found my peace.”

In a media stunt to raise awareness for his organization PACA, and to start real dialogues about child abuse and its many forms in Australia, Mr Rider took on the unassisted 800km paddling trip.

“The furthest I’d ever paddled before was 40 kilometers, and here I was about to paddle 800km alone,” says Mr Rider, who broke three world records on his epic voyage. “I love the challenge of pushing myself to the very edge and finding out exactly what I’m capable of.

“Once I finally got into Bondi, I realized for the first time in my life that I had found peace and I knew who I was and that I was proud of the who I am.”

Child abuse can be found everywhere in the world, including Australia and Thailand, Mr Rider pointed out.

Many children in Thailand are victims of physical or sexual violence or abuse. Many of these cases are never reported, as the children are afraid of reprisal and still don’t have access to the infrastructures that help them report them, Humanium, an international child sponsorship NGO dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world, states on its website.

“Generally speaking, these children are victims of abuse within the family or at school,” Humanium notes.

A 2002 study cited by United Nations Children’s Fund in the 2012 report ‘Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences in East Asia and the Pacific’, found that 30.3 per cent of 212 polled grade six students reported experiencing physically violent acts from both parents. Another cited study, from 2010, found that 16.7 per cent of 1,052 Bangkok residents between 16 and 25 reported experiencing physical abuse as a child.

Many types of physical abuse go unreported, especially those associated with punishment, notes Humanium.

“In this situation, the children consider the abuse as a punishment and try to hide their pain because they feel guilty for misbehaving. For that reason, children comply with the situation, believing it is a normal part of their life,” the Humanium website states.

However, child abuse often goes beyond physical violence into the more damaging realms of mental and emotional abuse, Mr Rider explained.

Phuket children are most at risk to these types of abuses, explains Urai Maidukem, of the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families on Koh Sireh.

“Nowadays, children are left alone at home, or handed over to caretakers while their parents are at work. These children do not receive enough love or family time,” Ms Urai said.

“We don’t see a lot of children in Phuket being physically abused. However, regular violent confrontations between parents can have deeply scarring effects on children – more so than direct physical violence.”

Issues within families stem from complicated situations that are not helped by social media, which often alienate children and parents from each other, Ms Urai said.

“Each family has it’s own unique problems and we cannot always get to the root of it. We lend a hand and it sometimes ends with us mediating a discussion among family members. Though this works sometimes, other times there are reoccurring issues forcing us to start over again.”

In addition to welfare officials, teachers also have a role to play in combating child abuse, explained Jakgrit Siriwat, deputy director of the Department of Student Affairs, Satree Phuket School.

“Teachers are told that they must know their students very well. They must be sensitive to whether or not a student is having issues at home,” Mr Jakgrit said. “Teachers might even need to visit a student’s home just to ensure that the child is in a safe environment after school.”

At the same time, teachers must watch each other to ensure physical violence isn’t being used as a form of discipline.

“Violence is prohibited in schools. A teacher caught being violent with a child will be fired,” assures Chalam Attatham, the director of the Phuket Primary Educational Service Area Office.

Anyone with evidence of a teacher physically punishing or abusing a student can report it to a councilor, the director of the school or to police, confirms Mr Chalam.

Those fearful of their complaints falling on deaf ears, or of retribution, can anonymously send evidence to the Damrongtham Center (Ombudsman’s office).

“Students who are abused by their teacher can come to us or send evidence to our office inside Phuket Provincial Hall. We can also be contacted by phone at 076-213 203,” says Damrongtham Center Chief Prapan Kanprasang.

Police will also investigate any claim of child abuse made by the victim or a third party, confirms Maj Nucharee Longkaew of Phuket City Police.

“These are not cases that are published by the media, like many other crimes,” Maj Nucharee says.

Notable exceptions are when the abuse includes extreme violence, such as the case of the 12-year-old Karen girl who was allegedly kidnapped, enslaved, tortured and scarred over half of her body by a couple in Kamphaeng Phet in 2013. Or, just earlier this year in Phuket, when a manhunt was launched for Somsak Yakob, who dropped off the body of a baby at Vachira Phuket Hospital after the child’s mother had left the infant in his care for the day.

“If we receive a report from a third party, we have to establish whether or not the child is being abused. If the child is abused, we can remove him or her from the dangerous environment without the permission of the guardians.

“The most important thing in these cases is taking care of the victim,” notes Maj Nucharee.

To do this, police coordinate their efforts with the Department of Social Development and Welfare in Phuket and other child protection foundations.

“I would like to urge anyone who witnesses abuse to report the issue to us. This is not just a family problem; this is a problem in society as a whole,” Maj Nucharee says.

“Some victims are not brave enough or are unable to cry out for help. Neighbors should do their part in protecting children and call either the police or social welfare officials.”

Local community volunteers at the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families can be contacted on a 24-hour hotline: 1300. Those needing immediate refuge can seek help at the shelter, which is open 24 hours a day and can be reached at 076-213315 or 076-218165.

Despite having been made ‘Men’s Health Man of 2015’, Mr Rider himself is readily available to inspire and comfort those in need. His journey can be followed on his Facebook page: Damien Rider, or on Instagram: damienrider_paca.

“Some of the people who’ve privately messaged me have said they were sharing information that no one even in their family knew about. They’ve never spoken to anyone,” Mr Rider said. “I read and reply to everything and it provides the motivation while I’m out there.”

Additional reporting by Chutharat Plerin.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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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

Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works

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Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works | The Thaiger

The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.

The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.

The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.

Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.

As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.

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Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket

Donna Toon

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Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | The Thaiger

One of the best things about living in Asia, and in particular Thailand, is the abundance of fabulous places to have spa treatments. From the true local experience on the beach, to the ultra chic five star luxury treatments here is, in no particular order, our Top Ten Phuket Spa Experiences.

1. Let’s Relax (Boat Lagoon)

Let’s Relax’s latest addition to their Thailand spa portfolio is located in the residential area of Boat Lagoon in Koh Kaew and by accounts a winner in our books! It is a beautiful space with the natural light also bringing a sense of calm as you walk down the long entrance. With multiple treatment rooms as well as a well appointed foot massage space that can accommodate a large gaggle of girls it is has become popular very quickly with the local ladies.

Being brand new it also is a treat to sit in lush white comfy chairs while having your foot massage and a chat to your girlfriend or boyfriend. Priced on the lower end of the market, but higher than the local spas on the side of the street and well worth the extra baht, Let’s Relax is fabulous new addition to the flooded spa market.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

2. Oasis Spa (Kamala)

Oasis Spa Group has a few little gems around the island including one in Laguna and also another great one on the beach road in Kamala, however this hidden sanctuary located on the back roads in Kamala is our pick of the bunch. From the main street you would never know there is a tranquil ten treatment room spa and delightful pool setting behind the single wooden door. With an impressive and consistent list of treatments, positioned above the street-side prices but below the five star offerings, Oasis Spa is wonderful place to pamper away your day.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

3. Kata Rocks Infinite Luxury Spa

Winning the World’s Luxury Spa Awards for 2015, 2016 and 2017 we couldn’t put together a top ten spa list without including the very modern and chic Infinite Luxury Spa at Kata Rocks.

The spa blends the beyond organic philosophy of ILA spa products with its own “Me Time” philosophy, the latest spa massage technology in its eight luxury treatment rooms and suites, each designed around specific treatments. This includes two rooms for couples complete with luxurious his and her bathtubs, a chromotherapy room for coloured light therapy, a waterbed room equipped with Italian-made Iso-Benessere, a water massage bed for aiding spinal integration, a sleeping pod room with Metronap rest pod, traditional Thai spa massage treatment room, consultation and treatment room, pedicure and manicure treatment room and a contemporary tropical relaxation patio for after treatment chill down.

Positioned in the very high end of the spa market, Infinite Luxury Spa is an impressive and fabulous space to spend your day, worth every baht!

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

4. 4th Floor Central Festival Phuket

‘It’s not a very accurate location’ I hear you say, but I love this spa, and whenever I am at Central I always try and allow at least 60 minutes extra to escape the crowds and enjoy a foot massage while reading my book. Located on the top floor of Central on the left hand side as you head towards Central Department Store (sort of above McDonalds), it’s hard to miss it but the staff are always outside greeting you and encouraging you to come in and take a load off. Priced perfectly at 300 baht for a 60 minute foot massage (plus tip of course), the experience is consistent and friendly. Full body treatments are also available behind the traditional curtain.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

5. Amatara Wellness Resort

Located at the very South of Phuket at Cape Panwa, Amatara Wellness Resort as the names suggests has an incredible spa perched high on the cliffs overlooking the Andaman Sea. One of the largest spas in Asia with over 2000 square metres of dedicated spa bliss, paralleled by the extensive menu and holistic and wellness packages, it really is an experience not to be missed.

Amatara has also just opened a new spa wellness experience, the exquisitely designed Thai Hammam brings together traditional Turkish and Moroccan bathing practices with the wisdom and gentleness of Thai spa therapies. Soak your worries away.

Make a whole day of it, indulge in their fabulous Sunday Brunch and then move through to the spa! Perfection!

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

6. Banyan Tree Spa

A market leader for many years not only in Phuket but around the world, Banyan Tree is has provided us with professional and impressive spas for decades. Banyan Tree Phuket Spa with it’s impressive 24 treatment rooms hidden in lush surroundings within the gardens of the resort has well trained and dedicated therapist giving you the ultimate in spa experiences. The attention to detail which is synonymous with the spa philosophy of the group together with the consistency and surroundings makes it one of the best spa experiences certainly in Thailand. I can highly recommend the three hour Royal Banyan package, which included a cucumber and coriander scrub, Banyan Tree herbal pouch massage, jade chilled facial and flower bath. My girlfriends and I indulged just last week, and it was such a treat.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

7. Beach Shack next to Dream Beach Club on Layan Beach

We are creatures of habit in our house, we have been in Phuket for ten years now and when we like something we tend to go back regularly. Sunday’s are for chilling and we tend to either head to brunch or down to the local beach at Layan, away from the larger more commercial eateries and clubs we like eating and massaging with the locals.

Purely bang for your buck, the full body oil massages on the beach for 300 – 400 baht are an absolute must. I would love to say head to “Phung’s Massage Shack” next to Dream Beach Club but to be honest it doesn’t have a name but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get a mention and make our list. Head to the top end of Layan and facing the beach next to Dream go left, it’s worth the trip!

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

8. JW Marriott Mai Khao Spa

Mandara Spa at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa is an oasis within an oasis, the resort itself sits on 27 acres of lush gardens and beach side bliss just North of the airport in Mai Khao. Within it’s tropical gardens is the king pin for many years on the island Mandara Spa, its an icon in the local spa industry.

Tranquil, exotic and extremely relaxing, the Mandara Spa at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa features a full service beauty salon, separate steam rooms for male and female guests, five double luxurious spa suites and eleven double deluxe rooms. The spa suites are well fitted out, with some enjoying outdoor bathrooms, but the most impressive aspect of the spa itself is the staff. They are incredibly well trained, and efficient in their craft, professional yet approachable and deliver every time.

The JW Marriott Wellness Retreat (bi yearly) is a highlight every year in my calendar, hosted and facilitated by Linda and her team, as well as the best wellness experts on the island, including Hayden Rhodes, Kim White and Andrew Stanndard. The four day program has informative workshops, wellness consultations, spa treatments, healthy meals, hands on activities, yoga, cooking classes and so much more.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

9. Atmanjai Wellness Retreat

Located on the South of the island just past Chalong circle Atmanjai Wellness Retreat at Friendship Beach offers a friendly and relaxed haven where guests can participate in detox, yoga or wellness programs that help restore your vitality, happiness and health. The cute bungalows located around the pool and on the beach side are a perfect excuse to indulge just a little further and stay on location while doing your retreats.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

10. Coqoon Spa at The Slate

Unlike anything else in Phuket, Coqoon Spa at The Slate is tranquil and idyllic space nestled in the lush green trees of the resort. It has a “cocoon” tree house made from bamboo and other natural products located high off the ground in true robinson crusoe style. Being in the trees is a unique experience matched perfectly with the highly trained and efficient practitioners. Subtle touches throughout the spa together with the extensive well thought out menu make Coqoon a special occasion treat.

Top 10 spas and massages in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Phuket Town – In CNN Travel’s “Asia’s most picturesque towns”

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Phuket Town – In CNN Travel’s “Asia’s most picturesque towns” | The Thaiger

“Though most famous for its beaches, the Thai island of Phuket offers ample opportunities for cultural immersion as well.”

Phuket’s Old Town was listed as one of Asia’s 13 most picturesque towns by CNN Travel.

The article mentioned, that whilst the island is renowned for its world-class beaches and leisure, offshore and adventure tourism activities, Phuket Town delivers on romance, history and cultural beauty in the island’s main commercial centre.

Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn says the article correctly highlighted Phuket’s cultural diversity and history; things that are often eclipsed by its beaches and Patong nightlife.

“Phuket Town retain its charm and unique identity that comes from the influence of the Baba-Peranakan culture, which started when Chinese families migrated to Phuket. We are seeing more fully independent tourists with discretionary spending power who want the unique experiences that Phuket Town is rich in.”

The pocket-sized town welcomes a large number of foreign tourists each year, a significant number of who come from China and are interested in exploring the area and its Chinese influences.

“The historic old quarter of Phuket Town, located in the centre of the island, is lined with Sino-Colonial style shop houses, built during the island’s tin-mining boom of the 18th and 19thcenturies.

“There are plenty of hip shops, cafés, restaurants and bars, including the batik shops along Thalang Road run by ethnic Malays and Indians. The area is also filled with Chinese temples, crumbling mansions, cultural museums and a nunnery.”

CNN also recommended that one of the best ways to soak up Phuket Town’s rich culture and bohemian atmosphere was to find a local company that specialises in walking tours of the Old Town.

In addition, CNN noted that Phuket Town is where travellers can indulge in some of the island’s best restaurants, ideal for those visitors who have had their fill of the same old tourist fare served in beach areas. Top picks according to CNN include Southern Thai specialist Raya, Tantitium and One Chun.

SOURCE: TAT News

Phuket Town - In CNN Travel's

Phuket Town - In CNN Travel's

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