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Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return?

Tim Newton

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Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | The Thaiger

SCREENCAPTURES: Kritsada Mueanawong

The vessel, that is at the centre of Thailand’s dramatic drop in Chinese tourists, will arrive back at a boatyard in Rassada today.

Back on July 5 it headed out for a day of diving near Koh Hei, south west of Phuket. The day was mostly fine although there had been warnings from early in the morning about potentially bad weather developing later. Smaller boats had been warned to stay ashore.

The boat never made it back to Phuket, and out of the nearly 100 passengers, 47, including many children, never made it back either.

The impact of the tragedy was partly softened by the international fascination in the Mu Pa football team who were being rescued from the Chiang Rai cave at the same time. The interest in that story surely softened the potential full media impact of the story. News editors around the world would have thought ‘one story from Thailand is enough’ for the nightly news.

But the story still played out, badly, especially in Chinese social media. In the hours after the full extent of the tragedy emerged, and as the search was still continuing for survivors, the Thai PM Prawit Wongsuwan said the event was ‘Chinese killing Chinese’, (referring to the revelation that the owner of the boat was a Thai nominee company acting on behalf of a real Chinese ‘owner’).

The first attempts at salvage were a sham. Photos send from participating divers showed water tanks and cables in a make-shift effort to refloat the sunken vessel. The attempt was doomed before it even started; the true tragedy being the loss of one diver’s life during the operation which was never going to work.

But after a week of preparations from a Singapore firm, the Phoenix, four and a half months later, returned to the surface with signs that the seabed was already reclaiming the wreckage. It emerged in a well-orchestrated media show, on cue, around 3.30pm yesterday.

Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | News by The Thaiger

When it finally reaches the Rassada boatyard there are some key elements police want to check that will finalise their report and become part of the prosecution evidence in the court cases.

Who was responsible for the boat’s sinking? Could it have been avoided? Who set up the company with the local nominee? Was the Captain or crew liable in their duty of care for the passengers on the day? Was the original design of Phoenix ‘fit for purpose’? Who were the officials that signed off on the design and building specifications for Phoenix? Indeed, was the naval architect of the vessel qualified to design such a boat? What was the limit of passengers for the boat? Should Phoenix been out in the open seas that day? Did the company know of the day’s weather forecast? (Even The Thaiger posted a screen-saver of the approaching storm during the afternoon). Was Phoenix carrying the required safety gear and was the safety gear ‘fit for purpose’?

The answers to these and many other question will now be meticulously sought by experts, lawyers and officials. No dates have been set for the court cases at this stage. But it has already been reported that the Captain of Phoenix, the Thai owner of the nominee company, the Phuket Marine Chief and several companies have already had charges brought against them.

At the time it was thought that the Chinese response to the Phoenix boat disaster would be quite swift but things would probably return to normal by the end of the year. In fact the immediate response was not a sudden drop in tourists. The Chinese who had already booked and paid for their holidays at the time, mostly came. But it was the ones who would have been considering a holiday to Phuket in the months after who have had the most effect. And the effect of their decisions to travel elsewhere is what’s being felt now.

The TAT, forever talking up the numbers of Thai tourism, say they expect the Chinese travellers to return ‘by the end of the year’. We will see.

Marine officials and tourist police have established a number of important new measures to improve marine safety around Phuket, including checks of all 24 ports on a daily basis, spot safety inspections, rigorous weather reporting and minimum specifications for all safety gear carried on tour boats.

Supervising the successful salvage, Maj Gen Surachete Hakparn made it clear that the “government is determined to get to the root cause of the incident so that it can remedy and show sincerity to them,” referring to the families of the Chinese victims.

He predicted that once the court cases have been run, convictions made and people have gone to jail, only then will any semblance of confidence might be restored with the Chinese tourists.

In the months since the sinking Chinese travel companies have been sending their customers elsewhere for their holidays. Whether Phuket’s heyday as a Chinese tourism favourite is over is yet to be seen.

Phoenix returns to Phuket. But will the Chinese travellers return? | News by The Thaiger



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

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Patong

Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Lifeguard Service

A commemoration ceremony has been held for Prathaiyuth Chuayuan, a local Phuketian who helped drive Phuket’s first beach lifeguard services. He passed away on Friday morning after a heart attack.

He first experienced chest pains whilst delivering his daughter to school in Phuket Town on Friday morning, drove himself immediately to the Vachira Hospital nearby but succumbed to cardiac arrest around 9am.

He was 57 years old.

He worked with Australian lifesavers to help train local lifeguards and improve the skills of the Phuket’s beach enthusiasts, and finally sought international accreditation for the growing body of competent Phuket lifeguards.

The Phuket Lifeguards Service, founded and run by Prathaiyuth and his wife Witanya, saved innumerable lives each year whilst battling Provincial Hall and local government for increased funding in annual contract negotiations.

Daren Jenner, a FOT (Friend of The Thaiger) and local safety officer for the International Surf Lifesaving Association, sent a message to us expressing his deepest condolences to Prathaiyuth’s wife, family and friends.

“I had many good conversations with him over the years. He was a good-hearted man who did his best in difficult and changing circumstances. A very big loss for Phuket and the lifesaving community here. ISLA sends our deepest respect for his long commitment to ocean safety in SE Asia.”

Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger

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Environment

Phuket villager braves the surf to rescue tangled turtle

The Thaiger

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Phuket villager braves the surf to rescue tangled turtle | The Thaiger

A local villager in Phuket’s north has risked his own life to retrieve a young sea turtle caught up in fishermen’s netting. The turtle was spotted, caught up in the branches of a fallen tree along the shores of Mai Khao beach. The monsoon was kicking up big waves and it’s unlikely the locals knew how to swim, especially in the surf conditions.

The local villager makes a few attempts to retrieve the turtle, eventually separating the turtle and netting from the tree branches with a meat cleaver.

After clearing the netting from around the turtle’s flippers and neck, it was taken by an officer from the local Phuket Department of Marine Resources for evaluation and treatment before it will be released back to the sea.

VIDEO: ห้องวีอาร์ ทะเลใต้ // @มานพ สิงห์ 8802

🔴 #ภูเก็ต #เต่าติดอวน วันนี้ 17 สิงหาคม 2562 ชาวบ้านได้ช่วยเหลือเต่าติดอวนพันตามคอลำตัว คลื่นได้ซัดเจ้าเต่าน้อย เข้าหาฝั่งหน้าหาดไม้ขาว ชาวบ้านได้แก้เชือกออกตามคลิป และได้เเจ้งเจ้าหน้าที่มารับไปอนุบาลเป็นที่เรียบร้อย #NewshawkPhuket Cr.ห้องวีอาร์ ทะเลใต้ // @มานพ สิงห์ 8802

Posted by เหยี่ยวข่าว ภูเก็ต Newshawk Phuket on Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Environment

Marium, the baby dugong internet star, dies. Plastic found in stomach.

The Thaiger

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Marium, the baby dugong internet star, dies. Plastic found in stomach. | The Thaiger

The orphaned female baby dugong, winning the hearts of many and helping to educate Thais about the importance of the local dugong population, has died with plastic waste lining its stomach, prompting a surge of mourning on social media.

Marium was found in April off the coast of Krabi, southern Thailand, and photos of her nuzzling marine biologists quickly went viral. When a second orphaned dugong was found, subsequently named Jamil by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya, the pair became internet stars.

Dugongs, a species of sea cow, are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, facing environmental threats including pollution, habitat loss and hunting. In Thailand, Marium and Jamil soon became symbols for the conservation of the oceans. Fans could watch Marium on a live feed, receiving veterinary treatment, and being fed up to 15 times a day.

But last week the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources posted that Marium was sick and refusing food. Marium died just after midnight on Saturday morning. An autopsy revealed plastic debris in the intestine, resulting in inflammation and the accumulation of gas, as well as a respiratory infection and a buildup of pus.

The DMCR posted the announcement of the death of “little angel” Marium.

Veterinarian Nantarika Chansue, who treated Marium, says, “She taught us how to love and then went away as if saying please tell everyone to look after us and conserve her species..”

Marium, the baby dugong internet star, dies. Plastic found in stomach. | News by The Thaiger

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