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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
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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

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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 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Phuket

Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | The Thaiger

The Soi Dog Foundation has officially opened its Humane Education Centre, the first of its kind in Thailand dedicated to the welfare of stray animals. The centre, located at the Soi Dog shelter in northern Phuket, forms part of the foundation’s Humane Education program. Rolled out in 2017, the program sees a team visit Thai schools to teach the next generation the basic principles of animal welfare and promote empathetic attitudes towards both owned pets and free-roaming strays.

The program has reached a total of 15,058 students and 861 teachers to date. With a dedicated classroom as well as educational tools and resources now on site at the shelter, Soi Dog will be able to expand the programme and reach an even greater number of young minds.

Co-founder and president of Soi Dog Foundation International John Dalley said, “The cornerstones of what we do – what I believe very firmly are the answers to the stray dog problem throughout Asia – are large-scale sterilisation of stray dogs and cats and education of, particularly, the next generation.

“We see all the time the problems that are being caused through us not respecting the environment and not respecting the other animals with whom we share this planet. That’s why education is so important.”

John also thanked the supporters and donors who made the construction of the centre possible. After cutting the ribbon, the students filed into the brand-new facility for the very first on-site class – a fun and interactive hour of roleplaying, brainstorming and problem solving.

Humane Education Manager Nuttawut “Film” Kumngern. said… “We want to encourage kindness toward animals, especially free-roaming dogs and cats, and teach youngsters to be responsible pet owners. This will sustainably reduce animal cruelty and pet abandonment.”

“We hope to one day see animal welfare incorporated into the curriculum in Thai schools, and our education centre is a great start.”

Soi Dog is ready to welcome school groups from Phuket and other provinces to the centre which can accommodate up to 40 students at any one time. Schools interested in participating are encouraged to email film@soidog.org

Phuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The ThaigerPhuket's Soi Dog Foundation opens Humane Education Centre at Mai Khao shelter | News by The Thaiger

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International Schools

Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket

The Thaiger

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Police have yet to investigate illegal hiring of foreign teachers at international school in Phuket | The Thaiger

Chalong police in Phuket say they have yet to start investigating the illegal hiring of foreign teachers at an international school in Rawai, south of the island. Palm House International School allegedly hired foreign teachers illegally in which 2 were arrested by Phuket Immigration police on November 4.

Somkiet Sarasin, the leading investigator of the case, says the 2 Brits were informed that police were processing a charge of working illegally in the country against them, in which both denied the charges. Somkiet says the 2 were released on bail, but did not confirm the amount of bail that was set by the police.

“They are still staying in Thailand. I am not worried. I have their passports. I am not available to explain [any details] because the investigation is still ongoing.”

“This is normal for an investigation when the suspects deny the charge against them. I have to check more information against their claims. This case will probably be concluded next month.”

However, the investigation has yet to begin, with Somkiet saying he has not even questioned the owner of the school, despite his claims the case would be finished next month.

“The investigation into the school will take time. The investigation into the two British people must be finished first.”

Such allegations of foreign teachers working illegally have recently been in the news after Sarasas Witaed Sainoi Pitiyakarn School, in the central province of Nonthaburi, saw 7 foreign teachers probed for being hired illegally. That school, along with others in its private network, made nationwide news after CCTV caught a Thai teacher hitting, pushing and dragging a young student in the classroom. Such widespread violence against students has long been a sad component of many Thai schools, in which some of the teachers are unqualified and unlicensed to teach, but are hired anyway.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Tourism

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend

The Thaiger

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Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | The Thaiger

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that Phuket has received a much-needed 300 million baht boost over the 4 day long weekend with around 54,000 tourists flocking to the island from last Thursday through to yesterday.

Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, reports that the average expenditure per visitor was about 5,500 baht, which was higher than the average spend for a Thai tourist to Phuket 2 years ago. She also noted that random checks on hotels showed that occupancy rates climbed to about 35%, with most guests staying 2 nights. But most of Phuket’s hotels remain closed.

Nanthasiri also says that many of the tourists concentrated themselves in the Phuket Old Town area, especially around Thalang Road, Phang Nga Road, and Dibuk Road in order to enjoy at the Sino-Portuguese shophouse architecture and historical locations. In fact much of Phuket Town, including its many markets and alley eateries, were doing roaring business, The Thaiger can vouch for the heavy traffic, on the roads and footpaths, over the past 4 days.

“This special holiday made Phuket tourism livelier, even though it was not as same as the situation before the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In fact, despite the welcome surge of visitors, it was still a long, long way from its previous tourist levels with much of the west coast, which has largely catered for the international tourist traffic, was still very quiet in places like Patong, Kata and Karon.

Phuket wasnt the only destination that has profited off of the long weekend as Chiang Mai saw droves of Thai tourists visiting its Royal Park Rajapruek as well as the northern city’s other nearby national parks and tourist areas. Visitors came from all over to see the blossoming of flowers in a beautiful display at the park as well as enjoying the air-purifying flowers as they relaxed. Tourists were able to rent a bicycle for 60 baht if they wanted to exercise while taking in the scenery and could also pay a visit to the orchid greenhouse, which hosts a variety of orchids in bloom. TripAdvisor recommends to set aside 2 hours to visit the park.

Next holiday weekend, on November 27 and 28, Pattaya is expected to get a tourism boost as its annual fireworks festivalis set to bring in travellers who have taken advantage of package deals offered by some beachside hotels. Such packages were offered for advance bookings, where holidaymakers could view the firework shows on the rooftops of their hotels. The firework displays are said to be long with breaks of entertainment-packed shows, featuring live music and student bands amongst others.

Phuket sees 300 million baht boost over long holiday weekend | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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