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Special Report: If there’s something strange and it don’t look good”¦ who ya gonna call?

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: If there’s something strange and it don’t look good”¦ who ya gonna call? | The Thaiger
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Special Report

Early last Saturday morning, a female tourist spent 45 minutes trying to contact the police. Repeated calls to the Tourist Police hotline 1155 went unanswered until a man picked up and told her he could not speak English and advised her to call the Thalang Police, who put her on hold.

The Phuket Gazette’s Chutharat Plerin investigates emergency services for tourists on the island.

PHUKET: Phuket’s Tourist Police have campaigned time and again with the message that the one emergency number any tourist needs to know is 1155. However, when that number was put to the test last weekend, the results were dismal.

“For the past 45 minutes, I have tried to contact the police. I tried the Tourist Police first, but the man who finally answered the phone told me to call Thalang Police as he didn’t speak English,” according to ‘Angel’ (not her real name) in an email to the Gazette received at 1:47am.

“So I called the Thalang Police – again with no answer to my repeated calls. When I did get through, they put me on hold and never came back” she said.

Angel then reverted to calling the Tourist Police, but no one answered the phone.

“Luckily, I wasn’t in any danger, but I am disgusted and appalled by the lack of response by the police.

“Aren’t the Tourist Police supposed to speak English? If I am in danger, who do I call? Certainly not the police in Phuket,” she said.

Maj Urumporn Koondejsumrit, chief of the Tourist Police here, remains confident that tourists in need of help will find it by calling the Tourist Police hotline: 1155.

“I am unaware of this incident and will look into it,” he assured.

“Any calls to 1155 from within Phuket are automatically directed to our Phuket ready room. If you are in Phuket, you will reach us.”

Maj Urumporn wondered why any of his officers tasked with answering the hotline would say they could not speak English.

“We have at least two officers on standby to answer the hotline 24 hours a day. These officers all speak at least reasonable English. So I have no idea how or why this could have happened,” he said.

To help Tourist Police with foreigners whose native tongue is not English, the ready room keeps a list of contact numbers of Tourist Police Volunteers who can assist with translations in 14 languages.

“Tourist Police have 36 foreign volunteers from 16 countries and 18 Thai volunteers. They can’t attend to the phone all the time, as many of them are out assisting patrols on the street, but we can call them and ask for their help in communicating with tourists in need,” Maj Urumporn said.

First and foremost, tourists need to know that the hotline exists, he explained.

“That’s why we have posters displaying the 1155 number at the airport and at the front desk, or even the guest rooms, of many hotels,” Maj Urumporn said.

It was information available at the airport that saved a French family lost in the forest just a month ago (story here).

“We realized we were walking into a forest, but we didn’t understand how difficult the going would be,” said Bill Letshon, 56, who was hiking with his three daughters.

“[When] I realized that we were lost, I remembered the Tourist Police hotline number from a brochure at the airport, so we called them for help.”

Tourist Buddy

The Tourist Police last year launched its free Tourist Buddy smartphone app. The iPhone and iPad app is available for download on iTunes, and the Android version is available on Google Play.

Available in English and Thai, Tourist Buddy allows visitors to quickly contact the Tourist Police.

When users first launch the Tourist Buddy app, they are asked whether or not they want the Tourist Police to know their location, delivered through the phone’s GPS facility.

“If tourists in danger use the app to call the Tourist Police hotline, we will know exactly where they are [within 10 meters] and will be able to go immediately to the right location to help,” Maj Urumporn said.

One number

No matter what the emergency – requiring police, ambulance or fire brigade – 1155 should be the first number any foreigner in distress should call, Maj Urumporn urged.

“If tourists need to speak to an officer in person they can go to the police box at the beach end of Soi Bangla in Patong or come to our headquarters in Phuket Town.

“The local police emergency number, 191, remains the top-priority number for native Thai speakers, but not all of their officers can speak English.”

Ambulance

Although all calls for medical assistance made to the police hotline 191 will be directed to Phuket’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ready room, EMS nurse Ladda Thongtan agrees that foreigners should call 1155.

“We have our own hotline, 1669, but most people call 191 and any calls requiring an ambulance are put through to us,” she said.

“We have staff who can speak English, but they are not native speakers and might not understand a person in distress if they do not speak clearly.

“If people need an ambulance, it can often be a matter of life or death, so the sooner we have clear information the faster we can get an emergency team to you.”

First Responders

Ms Ladda explained that the Phuket EMS ready room will contact the nearest hospital to the scene of an accident to dispatch an ambulance, or contact one of Phuket’s rescue foundations if they are closer.

The Kusoldharm Foundation covers Phuket Town, Patong and Thalang, while Ruamjai Kupai covers Chalong, Rawai and the south of the island. Both have rescue teams on standby 24 hours a day, but both admit that their English-speaking skills are limited.

“Call us on 076-246304 for any emergency service,” one Kusoldharm rescue worker said.

“We have staff who can speak some English available 24 hours, but it is best to have a Thai speaker on hand so we can understand exactly what is needed.”

A rescue worker with Ruamjai Kupai concurred.

“Our number is 076-283346. We have some staff who can speak English, but they are not on duty round the clock. If you need help, we suggest you call the Tourist Police or EMS first,” he said.

— 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.

Phuket

Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment

The Thaiger

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Man’s body discovered hanged in a Phuket Town apartment | The Thaiger

A man has been found hanged in Phuket Town apartment yesterday. Police are treating the cases as a suicide at the moment.

The man was found hanged from the apartment’s ceiling fan. His lifeless body was discovered around 11am after neighbours complained to the manager about the smell coming from the man’s room.

Police and the local Kusoldharm Foundation rescue workers attended the scene. Police later confirmed the incident happened in room on the 3rd floor of an apartment lock in Soi Phoonphol Soi 1, Talat Nuea in Phuket Town. Police said the man was 35-45 years of age and had a 29 year old girlfriend from Chumphon. He was paying 1,000 baht a month and had been renting the room for 2 months. Police estimate that the man had been dead for at least 3 days.

Police told media that the man had used, what appeared to be a dress, tied around his neck and then to the room’s roof fan. The apartment manager told police that he had been late on on his recent rent, speculating that the man may have been suffering financial hardship.

The man’s identity has not been released at this stage.

His body was taken to Vachira Hospital for an autopsy.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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