Lt Gen Surachate explained to the Thai press that national health authorities have approved to welcome tourists who have received the Sputnik V vaccine to come through under the Sandbox scheme, as announced by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn last week.
“So I’m sure that more Russian tourists will come to Phuket in November, and the situation of Phuket Sandbox will get better and better,” he said after a meeting with high-ranking Phuket police officers at the Phuket Sandbox Emergency Operation Center (EOC) at Phuket Provincial Police headquarters in Phuket Town.
“I came today to follow up the work that the Royal Thai Police General-Commissioner [Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk] ordered Phuket police to do in his last visit,” he added.
“The thing that I want to focus on today is the safety measures for arrivals, tourists and local people for travelling by air, land and sea. Right now, people wanted on arrest warrants must not be allowed to enter Phuket,” Lt Gen Surachate said.
“Right now, we are using technology to help our officers at the Phuket Check Point; at Phuket International Airport, at both the domestic and international terminals; as well as at the nine main piers in Phuket, which we have allowed to open for people to enter and leave the island,” he continued.
Of note, Tha Chatchai Police at the Phuket Check Point, guarding the only entry point onto the island by road, on Monday (Aug 23) reported already arresting 11 people attempting to enter Phuket while on outstanding warrants against them.
Police started checking domestic arrivals at the checkpoint for outstanding warrants after national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk ordered them to do so on Aug 6 as a reactive measure following the murder of 57-year-old Swiss tourists Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf near the Ao Yon Waterfall. Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf had entered Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox scheme.
“For the other 26 piers which are not open for people to use for entering and leaving the island, I have already ordered officers from the Phuket Provincial Police and the Tourist Police to talk with owners of the piers to install CCTV cameras. There must also be staff to check the CCTV at all times in order to protect against people illegally entering Phuket,” Lt Gen Surachate continued yesterday.
“Tourist Police have already classified 126 tourist attractions on the island into three groups: high risk, risk and normal. I have ordered them to work with local police to examine the locations. Every attraction must have a team of police assigned to take care of each location,” he added.
“Sometimes tourists like to explore the places hidden away from people. To take care of tourists with our limited number of officers we need to cooperate with local police and with local officials, as well as community leaders such as Kamnan [subdistrict chiefs],” Lt Gen Surachate said.
“At this stage, we are giving much intention and effort to improving our safety measures to welcome tourists; we expect to have many of them in this fourth quarter,” he added.
“The measures we are creating will focus on safety and human and organisational performance. For example, I have ordered officers to check not only the piers but also the shipyards.
“We have had experience with boats sinking because of unqualified shipyards. Phuket has about 12 shipyards, and I have already ordered officers to examine all of them. If we found any of them unqualified, we will inform officers at the Phuket office of the Ministry of Industry to shut them down,” he assured.
Lt Gen Surachate avoided mentioning the sinking of the tour boat Phoenix in 2018 that killed 47 Chinese tourists in Thailand’s worst single-vessel maritime disaster.
Lt Gen Surachate was Deputy Commander of the Tourist Police at the time. He was also the only official to recognise that of more than 400 tour boats operating in Phuket waters, 200 had failed to meet basic safety standards in the aftermath of the Phoenix disaster.
“We are fixing all holes to create the highest safety standards and boost the confidence of tourists, in order to welcome tourists in the fourth quarter,” Lt Gen Surachate concluded yesterday.