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Survivor recounts life-or-death struggle

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: One of two recreational fisherman missing since Saturday when a boat capsized off Koh Racha Yai was finally rescued by Phuket Marine Police yesterday afternoon after surviving five days on a small, rocky island.

The search for fellow missing fisherman Phuthong Tirawattana continues.

Phuket Marine Police aboard the vessel Chawengsak Songkram picked up Surat “Dang” Boonserm, 53, about 4:30 pm yesterday after he was spotted on the small, rocky island Koh Nui, near Koh Racha Noi.

K. Surat and K. Phuthong were among five fishermen, all wearing life jackets, whose rented fishing boat capsized in heavy seas and sank off Koh Racha Yai last Saturday about 3 pm.

The first three fishermen, rescued about 5 pm on Monday after spending more than a day floating in stormy seas, told Marine Police that K. Surat and K. Phuthong had left the group to swim to a small island visible in the distance.

Yesterday, the Marine Police launched a dinghy to scour small rocky islands off Koh Racha Noi, where surrounding waters are too shallow for large vessels to approach.

K. Surat, a cook at Mae La Seafood Restaurant at Saphan Hin, was finally spotted on the tiny island of Koh Nui. Battered, bruised and very hungry, his first words to his rescuers were a request for food.

It took Marine Police about two hours to rescue K. Surat and get him to a waiting ambulance from Vachira Phuket Hospital. Part of the delay was due to the fact that a large cruise ship from the Star Cruise line had to be moved to allow the Chawengsak Songkram to berth.

Once onshore, K. Surat was rushed for treatment for numerous cuts and bruises, most of which were inflicted when he climbed over barnacle-covered rocks onto the island while strong waves pounded the shoreline.

Still traumatized by the five-day ordeal, K. Surat said, “I will never go back to the sea for as long as I live.”

Asked why he and K. Phuthong had chosen to swim away from the group, he said they thought they had a better chance of survival by swimming to the island.

Large waves separated him from K. Phuthong as they approached the island around dusk.

“He was there with me and then we were separated when a huge wave hit. When I looked again I couldn’t see him through the darkness,” he said.

K. Surat was battered against the rocks by the strong waves but finally managed to pull himself up to the relative safety of tiny Koh Nui.

“It is a very cruel environment. There are no people, but lots of dangerous animals like pythons, monitor lizards and huge stinging ants. I was afraid they would be attracted to my bloody wounds and try to eat me so I spent much of my time up a tree,” said K. Surat.

Although a Buddhist, K. Surat said he prayed to local deity Por Ta Toh Sae, after whom Toh Sae Hill in Phuket City is named, for safe deliverance back to Phuket.

“I survived by using leaves to collect rainwater on the rocks, but as a result also consumed some seawater. I also tried to suck fresh water from small cavities in the rocks. I saw the [Navy] helicopter pass by [on Tuesday] and rescue ships just about every day. I shouted at the top of my lungs and waved my life jacket to try and attract attention, but they didn’t see me,” he said.

K. Surat’s wife, 52-year-old Jeed Boonserm, told the Gazette she had gone out with the Marine Police every day and was with them when her husband was finally rescued.

“I was crying so much that my eyes stopped making tears,” she said.

Also accompanying Marine Police on the search were Mae La Seafood Restaurant owner Ou Tien Fa of Taiwan and restaurant staffer Jit Suwannarat, both of who were rescued on Monday.

Marine Police are continuing the search for K. Phuthong, who they think could still be alive on an island somewhere in Phang Nga Bay as he was last seen wearing a life jacket.

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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

Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Marina Krasnopolska

WARNING! Content below contains photos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

The flags on Go Teng poles were lowered on Monday, ending Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival and symbolising that the spirits have returned the heavens. The flags are raised at the start of the festivities each year at participating shrines, calling on the spirits to descend from the heavens.

This year, 2 men were electrocuted while taking down the festival flags. A steel pole with the flag touched a power pole, electrocuting and burning the workers as they were trying to lower the flags. They were taken to the hospital.

During the festival’s street processions and ceremonies so-called “mah songs” channel the descended spirits. They enter a trance-like state and many practice self-mutilation to channel the spirits. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and some say the mah song acts as a horse for the spirit to ride.

Some mah song pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with steel spikes and sometimes swords or other bizarre choices (we’ve seen petrol pumps, javelins, samurai swords and kitchen utensils). During the street procession, they walk for hours with the self-inflicted piercings, seemingly posessed by ‘spirits’ and muttering all sort of strange chants, verging on mild cases of Tourette syndrome. A team of devotees for each mah song wipe away blood and keep the wounds clean. Some mah songs even slice their tongue for the street procession. Blood drips on their chest and the ground. Waiting bystanders line the streets hoping for the blessing of a passing mah song. Some mah songs carry a black flag.

The event is an annual spiritual ‘cleansing’ for those in watching the processions. Onlookers lining the street bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position as the mah song waves flags and banners over their heads. Businesses along the procession route often set up an altar outside their shop and mah songs stop at each one to do a short ritual.

The Phuket government gave the festival organisers the “okay” to hold this years event with hopes that it would increase domestic tourism and generate much-needed revenue after the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic crippled Phuket’s tourist economy. Before this year’s festival, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana asked that the mah songs “limit the level of torturing.” He also called for a limit on the number of people at ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His calls were largely ignored.

The spirits will again return in 2021 to Phuket again cleanse the island’s large Thai-Chinese community.

Photos of the 2020 Vegetarian Festival by Marina Krasnopolska.

Phuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Daily News

As Phuket awaits foreign tourists, city officials are told to prepare a “response plan” in case of a second wave of Covid-19. An official from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports held a workshop in Phuket today to discuss the risk of another outbreak as the country opens up to those on the Special Tourist Visa.

The ministry’s permanent secretary Chote Trachu says now that the country is allowing tourists (who are required to quarantine upon arrival) an infection “may somehow slip through.” He says a response plan needs to be in place in case this happens, adding that there should be corporation from the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Defense.

“If any tourists are found to be infected, the disease must not be allowed to spread among the people. There should be no panic, and public health officers will investigate the case. Tourist Police will track down the suspected person in an investigation with the Ministry of Public Health.”

Chote says all provinces – not just Phuket – should have a response plan. Although tourists must go through a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival, Chote says there are some cases where the incubation period for Covid-19 is longer than 14 days.

“There are a variety of cases. Sometimes, the infection does not show after 14 days, or even 15 or 16 days. Each situation is different.”

Recently, a woman in Koh Samui tested positive for the coronavirus 5 days after she was released from a Samut Prakan quarantine facility. Traces of the virus were found on gym equipment the woman used at the quarantine, leading health officials to suspect she was infected before arriving to the island.

“We urge Thai people to not let their guard down. Everyone must wear masks, wash their hands and take care of personal hygiene. This will help prevent them from contracting the disease.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Business

Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub

Maya Taylor

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Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket - PHOTO: www.makemytrip.com

Industry officials are seeking the go-ahead for a project to transform over 140 rai of government land in Phuket into a world-leading medical hub. The project is budgeted at 3 – 4 billion baht, depending on which report you read. Kitkong Tantijaraswarodom, from the Federation of Thai Industries, believes the development of a medical and wellness hub in the sub-district of Mai Khao, north Phuket, will help revive the southern island’s battered economy. Phuket has become increasingly reliant on a steady flow of tourists over the past 2 decades.

The southern division of the FTI covers Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Patthalung, Surat Thani, Ranong, Satun, Chumphon, and Songkhla.

“The FTI will ask the government to green-light the project during the scheduled mobile cabinet meeting on the island on November 3.”

Kitkong says businesspeople in the south are anxious for the government to approve the project, which will provide both locals and foreign medical tourists with state-of-the-art medical care. The facility is expected to include long-term care, hospice and rehabilitation services, in addition to a dental hospital, sports therapy centre, and a medical training school for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory scientists.

The chair of the FTI’s southern chapter is also calling on officials to provide small and medium-sized businesses with additional support, in the form of access to loans, in order to deal with cash shortages.

“In the short term, the FTI wants the government to help SMEs, especially those in the tourism sector.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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