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Phuket Opinion: Paying the ultimate price

PHUKET: Jet-skis are back in the spotlight this week in the saddest of circumstances, with the death of 20-year-old Australian Emily Collie, the victim of a fatal collision off Kata Beach last Sunday (Feb 5).

opinion, tourism, transport, marine, corruption, accidents, death, police,


The Phuket News

Sunday 12 February 2017, 09:00AM


Phuket Tourist Police check that a jet-ski rented out to tourists is as legal as it can get. Photo: The Phuket News / file
Phuket Tourist Police check that a jet-ski rented out to tourists is as legal as it can get. Photo: The Phuket News / file

Our deepest condolences to her family and friends, who have unfailingly described Ms Collie as bright, bubbly and full of life. Our heartfelt sympathies also go to her boyfriend Thomas Keating, who was driving the jet-ski that struck her.

News of Ms Collie’s death echoed in headlines around the world, prompting officials to go scampering along the beaches to ensure the jet-ski operators were as legal as they could be with their token mandatory insurance coverage that fails to cover even minor damage to jet-skis – hence giving license for the jet-ski damage rip-offs and extortion of tourists to continue – nevermind a meagre B50,000 compensation in case of death. Even then, the knee-jerk raids this week still netted six jet-ski operators who were found to be lacking the required permits.

Even more Kafkaesque, the officers were checking the “legal requirements” for an entirely illegal industry – which is nonetheless permitted with the full blessing of the government itself. If that does not epitomise Thailand, little else will. To put it bluntly, to systematically profit from engaging in, organising or aiding and abetting an illegal activity is the very definition of organised crime. The government uses this definition when describing “mafia” suspects. There is no reason to shy away from using this word now.

 Beach management was at the top of Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan’s list of issues in Phuket that needed urgent attention – and assistance from the Royal Thai Army to fix – this week. Regular readers of The Phuket News will need no reminding that soon after arriving on the island Gov Chockchai publicly pointed out that he knew of no laws that empowered government officers to issue permits to allow people to work on the beaches – and collect “fees” for such privileges. To no surprise he has since fallen silent on that issue – Welcome to Phuket, Mr Chockchai.

BIS

To be fair to the Governor, however, within months of seizing power in 2014 the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued a command for officials to clean up and regulate the business of jet-skis in many of Thailand’s famous beach destinations after the great “sand-kicking incident” at Pattaya. That’s about as high as authority can get in this country for the time being in legitimising an illegal business through recognition.

As many people posting comments on The Phuket News in the wake of Ms Collie’s fatal accident have pointed out, by law people must be issued a second-class helmsman license to operate a jet-ski in Thailand. On the surface, this license seems to be yet another ridiculous paper chase and another excuse for officials to hold jet-ski drivers to ransom, but it does achieve one thing: it recognises that a jet-ski is a vehicle like any other and is dangerous – nay, lethal – in inexperienced hands. Ms Collie has now paid the ultimate price for that knowledge.

For all their failings, the lawmakers who brought in this rule understood that licenses, like many other permits, are instituted to protect people from themselves. It takes little to understand why we don’t allow children to own guns, so why would we allow learner drivers to operate a high-speed vehicle?

If any government wants to steamroll over its own laws, they do so in the full foreknowledge the public will easily pick them off as moronic hypocrites. Either change the law, or change the requirements. At least do something to protect people from themselves.

 

 

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Jor12 | 13 February 2017 - 22:17:16

CaptB...it matters not whatever term anyone wishes to describe "2nd Class Helmsman". The fact is, it is required by law. 

However, any term is meaningless, because beaches across Thailand are not to be used for ANY commercial enterprises. This means the whole jet-ski operation (and every other business enterprise) is illegal. Therefore PN is correct in publishing the photograph of Police being actively complicit in an illegal activity as are the respective councils in allowing a portion of beaches to be used as commercial enterprises.

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Capt B | 13 February 2017 - 12:15:32

The "2nd Class Helmsman" you are referring to is a "Certificate Of Competency". It is not a "License". It would be unreasonable to expect any idiot renting a Jet Ski to hold one.

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Eagle | 13 February 2017 - 11:17:13

Why is this opinion from the PN and also the last opinion about corruption not published in your thai language newspaper(Khao Phuket)?More thais could know what you are thinking about Thailand/Phuket and your opinion about their laws and also how they handle or better, not handle problems.Maybe they will listen to a Farang Editor and it would help to make this a better country!

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LivinLOS | 13 February 2017 - 11:13:32

Any law which restricts locals from profiting from visitors, will be a law that goes poorly enforced at best. Closing times, jetski rentals, baht buses, land rights, the list goes on. 

There is simply no desire to have real and actual laws, with clear and consistent application on all people. What there is a desire for is a system of fines, applied haphazardly and without consistency, enabling profits for the established players. 

The Phuket News

Rorii | 13 February 2017 - 09:13:43

Jetski Mafia, purely a speculative comment, it could also be said that a helmet might not have saved her... the only safe thing would be NOT to hire one. No experience, youthful "enthusiasm" these are the real dangers.
Here's another thing to contemplate, do you really want to put on a smelly helmet, that has been on many heads, without it being sanitized.... yuck.

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Jetski Mafia | 12 February 2017 - 15:29:04

A helmet might have saved her.

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bustermanidogs | 12 February 2017 - 15:03:51

So the police charge this poor guy for the accident, instead they should have shown compassion for his loss in this tragic accident. But maybe they thought there is some money to be made? The police should arrest the jet ski operators who made this tragedy possible by running an illegal business on the beach and hiring illegal jetski's out without proper licenses required by law to ride one. How many more people have to die or be injured by these illegal activities before the cowards running the government do something about it? Is the jetski mafia more powerful than the whole of the Thai army and navy together?

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simon01 | 12 February 2017 - 12:37:08

Well this just about sums up Phuket. As long as people pay those in power then what is just organized crime is legal. its so sad to see a " token" photo of what looks like a bust for the press. But we all know it means nothing. These people are NOT insured when you are on them. The jet ski / parasailing is a crime ring that allows tourists to be robbed in broad daylight plus risking their lives too. There is now " real" license / qualifications to ensure safety or the user or standards of equipment or training of the people renting them. The " paperwork" is a paper to say they have paid the correct amount of money to be there. This news report is about right. phuket is openly allowing organized crime as long as the pirates pay their share of the loot. So sad to see in this day and age that the piracy menality is still good and strong in such a beautiful place as Phuket which has such amazing potential for a massive tourist industry. But alas no chance in the coming years.

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BenPendejo | 12 February 2017 - 11:41:49

Another good piece here PN.  I'm guessing that Thai officials, including the temporary Khun Chockchai, will ignore this entire episode and will wait until it just fades away.  It becomes clearer all the time (as if we didn't know already) that the jetski mafia is the entity that calls the shots on this island.  NOT government officials, and not the NCPO. Sign me "Utterly Disgusted in Phuket"

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Concerned | 12 February 2017 - 10:31:08

Ban Jet-Skis
Sad story death of 20-year-old Australian Emily Collie:
Ban Jet-Skis from public beaches also in order to prevent innocent swimmers from harm. 
Only allow them in a special assigned safety zone, preferably on a not used tin mine lake, overseen by professionals and the authorities.

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