Gen Thanasak made the announcement during a visit to Patong Beach today to hear first-hand the slew of requirements needed to improve the lifeguards’ services.
Joining Gen Thanasak was Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul.
The visit follows Henry Reyes, President of the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA), based in California, sending a written formal appeal directly to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha to take urgent action to support Phuket’s lifeguards in order to stem the growing tide of drownings at the island’s beaches.
Mr Reyes called on PM Prayut to intervene in the impending budget cuts by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO) to reduce lifeguard funding by 10%, citing The Phuket News page one story in December: “Slashed budget puts Phuket lifeguard patrols in danger”. (See story here.)
“I am here today to see the situation and hear their concerns in person. It is the main purpose of my visit,” Gen Thanasak told The Phuket News.
At the Patong Lifesaving Education Centre on Patong Beach, Gen Thanasak attended a presentation by Phuket Lifeguard Chief Prathaiyut Chuayuan that explained the essential life-saving services Phuket’s lifeguards provide.
Then Deputy PM Thanasak, Tourism Minister Kobkarn and Mr Prathaiyut held a private conversation away from, but in plain sight of, members of the press.
After the conversation, Gen Thanasak told Mr Prathaiyut, “Make a list of what you need for me.”
Mr Prathaiyut assured that he would.
Gen Thanasak also ordered Phuket Governor Chokchai Dejamornthan to follow up what Phuket Lifeguard Service wants.
Also present to witness today’s proceedings was PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwatthanapong, who slated the budget cuts for the lifeguards’ services.
“I appreciate the Phuket Lifeguard Service and others who take care of tourism by their very good work. This makes Thailand trusted by international tourists… Especially the Phuket Lifeguard Service, who do a good job. They also work with Australian lifeguards. This really improves the reputation of Thailand,” Gen Thanasak said.
“Thank you to the Phuket Governor and Royal Thai Navy Commander (Royal Thai Navy Third Area Commander Vice Admiral Surapol Kuptaphan) for their good work, as they are behind the scenes of this work.”
Minister Kobkarn declined to comment specifically on the challenges Phuket’s lifeguards are facing, but noted, “I am really happy to visit here, and I especially appreciate the Phuket Lifeguard presentation today.”