By having Patong Municipality hire the lifeguards directly month by month, Mayor Chalermluck managed to navigate around the official processes enforced by the Thai Government Procurement Department under the Ministry of Finance.
The requirements are in place for any government office to follow when offering a government contract. They were rightly instituted to make local government dealings transparent in the country’s never-ending fight against corruption, but nonetheless are onerous, precise and time consuming.
Having lifeguards on duty throughout the high season is also a public relations masterstroke. Not only does it give recognition to the fact that lifeguards do more than “just” risk their lives in the low season while rescuing tourists from dangerous surf, but also puts lifeguards on show when they are needed much less, and are much more visible when so many more tourists are on the beach.
Even MaAnn Samran, Chief of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), deserves some credit for following in Mayor Chalermluck’s footsteps and no longer being forced to wait for a legal dispute to be resolved in order to provide lifeguards at Surin Beach.
That said, it would of course have been much better not having the Surin Beach debacle see no lifeguards present during a severe weather warning late last month, or resulting in the drowning death of a tourist in early July.
Bang Tao Beach is a different story. The need to get lifeguards back on that beach is paramount, especially considering the thousands of hotel guest rooms and residential estate homes in the immediate area. The danger there is clear and present, and the thousands of new units under construction in the area only add to the need.
Hope there rests with the talks Mr MaAnn is having with hotel GMs in them stepping up to protect their own guests from drowning at the very same beach promoted as “on their doorstep”.
Mai Khao, probably the fastest-developing area on the island, also needs serious attention. Mai Khao OrBorTor is a small administration and has limited resources to match, but is home to the longest beach on the island.
That needs to be sorted out, and soon. They need to draw up their battle plans early, not wait for people to start drowning first. As with Bang Tao, the people with the most resources collectively at their disposal are the managers of hotels and major property developments along Phuket’s northwest coast.
Without any formal support from our Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor), which stills collects a room tax on the pretense of providing lifeguards for beach safety, and with the Phuket office of the national Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) considering the drowning deaths of tourists not their area of concern, there are very few options available. But as Mayor Chalermluck has shown, where there’s a will, there’s a way.