The raid yesterday (Apr 5), called an “inspection” in official reports, was led out by personnel from the Thai Maritime Enforcement Command Center Region 3 (TMECC Region 3), operating out of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command at nearby Cape Panwa.
Joining TMECC Region 3 Deputy Director Capt Krit Khluebmat in carrying out the “inspection” were Kathu District Chief Thitiwat Bunkit and other officers from Kathu District Office, Thalang administrative officials, marine police and, according to official reports, representatives of the Patong residents and “related agencies”.
The barge was inspected yet again for safety, which fell under the responsibility of the Phuket Marine Office, the report noted, despite not listing the Phuket Marine Office among the agencies joining the inspection.
Officials from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Region 9 Office also joined the inspection for waste management and anti-pollution measures.
Also present yesterday were officials from the Phuket Provincial Excise Office to “investigate” the sale of liquor and tobacco, which was never confirmed to have taken place on the boat, while the Phuket Provincial Office of Labour Protection and Welfare “investigated” the staff for irregularities. Specifically mentioned in the report were cooking staff.
According to official reports, Capt Krit said that the officials gave advice and information to the operator ‒ despite the operators already clearing many of the requirements during inspections earlier this year. (See stories here and here.)
The representatives of local people also joined the inspection to give their opinions, said the report, without naming who.
“Whether or not the boat will be allowed to operate depends on the law enforcement that each department has to consider, but the boat will not receive permission to operate if it does not pass all the laws,” Capt Krit assured.
Capt Krit said ‒ that following the inspection, not before ‒ he believed that the boat might have opened to the public earlier. Officials will conduct further investigation into this, he said.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew had earlier noted that he had been informed that the Yona Beach Club had already opened to serve guests, reported the Bangkok Post.
The impact on marine resources of a floating party boat that can accommodate up to 500 people was a concern. Safety in the event of strong winds or waves were also a concern, he added.
Capt Krit also commented on the inspection that Yona Beach Club has a different business model that would not generate income to the locals, reported the Bangkok Post.
“While Yona had some of the characteristics of a cruise ship, the business model was different. Cruise ships help generate income for local residents when their passengers come ashore, he said. But most of the revenue generated by Yona from serving party-goers would stay with its owners,” Capt Krit was quoted as saying.
Suchart Rattanaruengsri, director of the DMCR Region 9 Office, reportedly said that the boat’s decorative materials were flammable and there was no fire escape. That point was not raised in earlier inspections, though it was reported after an inspection in January that the barge has six life rafts and several fire stations on deck.
“The operation of this service venue involves many laws. If it is allowed to open, other operators will follow suit. Clear-cut measures are needed to prevent impacts on marine and coastal resources,” Mr Suchart said.
Of note, following the "inspection" yesterday, not one official confirmed any illegality or irregularity with the boat.
Kurt | 07 April 2023 - 11:23:00