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Tourist safety: Phuket Gov meets honorary consuls

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET TOWN: The Phuket Governor met with honorary consuls from 16 countries yesterday afternoon to discuss ways to improve safety for foreign tourists on holiday in Phuket.

Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop chaired the meeting, which was hosted by the Royal Phuket City Hotel. Only the honorary consul from Spain was unable to attend.

After all attendees introduced themselves at the start of the gathering, Governor Wichai spoke though an interpreter to share his views about tourist safety issues.

Gov Wichai said that from now on all criminal cases and accidents involving foreign tourists would be reported by police to both the Phuket Provincial Office and either the consular official or embassy of the party involved.

Police will now have to not only report arrests, but also keep the diplomatic missions informed of updates in investigations involving their nationals.

As for the controversial issue of closing times at nightlife entertainment venues, Gov Wichai said he would like to introduce special zones in popular tourist areas that would allow foreigners to enjoy Las Vegas-style partying throughout the night.

Soi Bangla and Rat U-Thit Road in Patong and Thalang Road in Phuket Town were mentioned as possible areas for such zones, he said.

“But the special zones would only be for foreign tourists, not Thais,” he said.

The governor also spoke frankly on the issue of public transport options for tourists, reiterating that he would like to introduce standardized pricing requiring all independent-hire transport vehicles on the island, including tuk-tuks, to be fitted with meters.

Gov Wichai said he intends to call all of the departments involved to discuss the possibility of moving forward with such a plan, which he admitted is still in the conceptual stages.

Many disputes between passengers and drivers are the result of misunderstandings, he said.

Poor English language skills on the part of drivers and tourists’ unfamiliarity with the geography of the island combine to create confusion and frustration that can sometimes lead to disputes, he said.

As for complaints about long lines to clear customs, immigration and security requirements at Phuket International Airport, Gov Wichai promised to rectify the situation by tripling the number of X-ray machines there.

A question-and-answer session followed the governor’s two-hour talk.

German Honorary Consul Dirk Naumann pointed out that frustration with the tuk-tuk services on the island had reached a point where news about disputes had made headlines in media outlets around the globe.

Taxi services on the island present far fewer problems than tuk-tuks, which grossly overcharge passengers, he said.

Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers risk getting shot if they pick up passengers outside their own turf, he added.

Mr Naumann said that as honorary consul it was important that he also received real-time reports about accidents and deaths involving German citizens, not just police arrests.

Tossaporn Thepabutr, one of Phuket’s three members of parliament, also serves as honorary consul for South Korea. He said he would like the governor to address the problem of foreign tourists who are arrested or fined for driving without a Thai license, even though they are in possession of licenses issued by their home countries. Such problems are compounded when tourists get into accidents with rented vehicles, he said.

Supporting this idea, British Honorary Consul Martin Carpenter added that outfits renting vehicles to foreigners usually hold onto their passports as surety as a matter of procedure.

He suggested taking steps to change this, because people caught driving without a Thai license face problems with Traffic Police as well as Immigration if they are caught.

— Kitima Pornmongkhonwat


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