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.)
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.