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Confidence sinks in handling of Phuket lifeguard crisis

PHUKET: Only seven people have applied to be directly hired by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) to work on Phuket’s beaches as lifeguards, the PPAO Acting Chief confirmed yesterday (Oct 10.)

tourism, death, accidents, marine, Chinese, military,


Tanyaluk Sakoot

Wednesday 11 October 2017, 11:37AM


PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwatthanapong (left) explains at Provincial Hall yesterday only some details of what the current situation in Phuket’s lifeguard crisis. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot
PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwatthanapong (left) explains at Provincial Hall yesterday only some details of what the current situation in Phuket’s lifeguard crisis. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Speaking to the press during the monthly Governor Meets The Press conference at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday, Mr Watcharin explained, “In total, only seven people from the Kamala Beach area have applied.”

However, Mr Watcharin did not clarify how many had been actually hired by the PPAO.

Meanwhile, The Phuket News has independently verified that several former lifeguards at Kamala with years of experience of conducting surf safety patrols and rescues had applied to the PPAO – and been turned away.

“But we are increasing the number of positions available for the lifeguard training from 150 to 230 positions available,” Mr Watcharin noted.

“I want to double the number of lifeguards on Phuket’s beaches,” he added.

The training, to be conducted by Royal Thai Navy personnel, is now open to all people, not just officials as previously announced last week (see story here), Mr Watcharin yesterday clarified.

Asked how many officials had been signed up for the training, Mr Watcharin said, “I have no idea, yet. The deadline for registration is Oct 12 (tomorrow).”

Regardless, Mr Watcharin assured those who completed the training “would be ready to work effectively” as lifeguards.

“This is only until we draft a new contract (a government tender for a private contractor to provide lifeguard services) and open it to bids in about two or three months,” he added.

However, it was not mentioned that only last Thursday (Oct 5) 29-year-old Chinese tourist Sa Gnan drowned at Karon Beach despite local Civil Defense Volunteers patrolling the beach that day. (See story here.)

C and C Marine

Challenged on the failure of officials to turn up for beach patrol duty last Sunday, Mr Watcharin yesterday blurted that local municipalities and other local authorities were suddenly responsible for ensuring lifeguards remain on Phuket’s beaches while dangerous surf conditions continue for at least the next month.

The point was raised after he was asked why a Filipino man had to be rescued by local residents as officials had failed to turn up for beach patrol duty at Bang Tao Beach last Sunday. (See story here).

“Bang Tao Beach is the responsibility of the Cherng Talay OrBorTor [Tambon Administration Organisation]. They must find the officials and volunteers to take care of tourists by themselves.

“It is OrBorTor’s job to look after each beach for now,” he said.

Yet Mr Watcharin stumbled to explain, “But at other beaches… such as Surin Beach, has six officials assigned there. Other beaches are currently being taking care of by officials from each local organisation.”

Mr Watcharin failed to mention that Surin Beach was currently being patrolled by lifeguards from the Surin-BangTao Surf Lifesaving Club, whose members continue to have lifeguards posted a specific locations at Surin, Bang Tao and Layan beaches for free for fear of tourists’ safety.

He also did not mention that the two officials who failed to turn up for duty last Sunday did in fact turn up the next day, only highlighting the gap between what the PPAO understands the current situation is compared with the reality on Phuket’s beaches.

The PPAO might want to note that The Phuket News this morning was informed by lifeguards at Surin Beach that some of their members must now seek paid employment as they can no longer afford to spend their days patrolling the beaches for free. “They are running out of money and they have families to feed,” one lifeguard said.

Mr Watchrin yesterday confirming that the responsibility of providing lifeguards at the beaches had now been dumped onto local authorities follows the local mayors last week calling to take up the mantle themselves – but with PPAO budget support. (See story here.)

That call went unanswered last week. Mr Watcharin said nothing of budget support yesterday.

 

 

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Bigaresort | 13 October 2017 - 08:14:18

Tourists should have brain enough to see the danger !Why should somebody else risk there lives to save an Idiot?For money? or more money!To the chief of PPAO ,need more voluntrers?start a TV show like Baywatch and you get all you need!
Horst

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malczx7r | 12 October 2017 - 12:57:52

"Sorry we were wrong" That'll never happen!!

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simon01 | 12 October 2017 - 11:42:26

I am not shocked that so few want to work for these positions. They change their minds on things every 2 minutes. The best thing they can do to restore public confidence is to say "sorry  we were wrong" and reinstate the old company and allocate them more money and equipment. They can then hire and train more lifeguards. Let a company that knows what its doing run public safety. I cant see anyone wanting the job under the new system. So just to say we have many more positions open is crazy when they have 7 out of 230 positions. Just let the old company back and give them a bigger budget. Firstly that will save lives which the new system clearly is costing lives. Its will give confidence back to the tourists as now they have none at all. 3rd it will show that Phuket takes safety seriously, where now it just says saving money is more important than tourists lives.  Then increasing the budget will mean more lifeguards can be trained and they can all be well equipped. Then the beaches can be patrolled longer and all year round and the number of deaths can be reduced. Lastly they are needed to help the victims of the jet ski and parasailing thugs too. As long as Phuket is willing to take the money from these guys to run their death traps on the beaches they should use the money to provide rescue for their victims in the way if the lifeguards who are already there doing an an amazing job. If Phuket really wants to show they are serious about tourists safety then they need to reinstate the old company and double its budget. Thats the only way to restore public confidence, make the beaches safe and save lives. Anything else just says money is more important  than lives.

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Kurt | 12 October 2017 - 08:06:14

The acting chief of PPAO stumbled alarming a lot, in what he said and in what he not said.
Oh, and were is the real Chief of PPAO during this Beach Safety Crisis?

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Jor12 | 11 October 2017 - 21:28:42

The constant whinge on here previously is that the lifeguards did nothing anyway other than sit, talking, drinking and on phones, so why all fuss when they are not there? Unbelieveable.

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alan morison | 11 October 2017 - 16:55:50

The amateurish approach to protecting the lives of tourists continues . . . there is no evidence that a quickly assembled group can outperform professional lifeguards whose record at saving lives in real rescues is extremely good. The longest of these annual standoffs lasted for eight weeks. It's sad and shocking that the PPAO never learns its lesson: please learn how to care for the lives of Phuket's visitors.

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