As with the visit by Pol Lt Gen Surachate ‘Big Joke’ Hakparn, currently serving as a ‘Level 9 Adviser’ to the Royal Thai Police attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, in Phuket on Sept 16, Gen Suwat yesterday repeated that the project was to “to create a safety zone, build confidence and bring peace of mind to the people”.
Joined at a press conference by Phuket’s highest-ranking police officers, Gen Suwat noted that the concept behind the project was that “Phuket is a pilot province in reviving tourism from the COVID-19 crisis with the Phuket Sandbox, and with the charm and beauty of the Sino-Portuguese architecture in the old city community this makes this area an important business district in the heart of Phuket which consists of important areas such as hotels, community attractions, temples, museums and schools, where people tourist and many business people in the area visit.”
“Regarding safety of life and property, therefore it is important to the confidence of both Thai and foreign tourists,” he said.
In explaining his 12-point description of the project, Gen Suwat noted that the project will see 28 CCTV cameras installed at 12 locations along Thalang Rd along with four “SOS” alarm points where people can call for help.
The CCTV footage along with communications, including radio communications of police officers in the 1.02-square-kilometre designated safety zone will be coordinated through a central control room, he added.
The public safety project also includes drone patrols and Segway patrol officers, and officers on patrol by motorbikes will use PCX ‘clean energy motorbikes’ to perform patrols, Gen Suwat continued.
An official ‘Safety Zone’ LINE group will be created and a ‘Cyber Village’ board of committee members will be set up to oversee operations. The committee members will include local community members with Phuket Town Mayor Saroj Angkanapilas serving as chairman of the board, he added.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed to enlist the help of the private sector to support the ‘Hello Phuket’ application “to serve the people and tourists”, Gen Suwat said.
Officers patrolling the safety zone will also be issued 30 smart card readers with smartphones to identify persons with outstanding arrest warrants issued against them.
Officers will collaborate with local agencies to take action to make risk areas safer, such as trimming tree branches that create dark areas, keeping the area clean, installing lights to reduce the number of dark areas, removing dangerous overhanging power cables, and adjusting the angle of CCTV cameras to focus better on public areas, Gen Suwat said.
Gen Suwat also called on the cooperation of the public sector by organising training for volunteer networks to be able to participate in crime prevention.
“In addition to monitoring the progress of the Smart Safety Zone 4.0 project, this visit is also a follow-up on safety measures for taking care of tourists as a whole, including assessing various situations that may be dangerous for tourists.
“Especially during this monsoon [season], we will focus on safety measures for natural attractions in each area to prepare before opening to welcome tourists, including controlling illegal labour,” he said.
“Regarding the province reopening, today there has been a discussion together with the police. including those involved in tourism, because it’s something that everyone has to help each other with. After this, I will try to go to the areas to monitor the progress. In the past, the operation has been going well,” he said.
Gen Suwat has taken particular interest in public safety in Phuket following the murder of 57-year-old Swiss tourist Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf near the Ao Yon Waterfall. Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf had entered Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox scheme. Her body was found near the waterfall on Aug 5.
Of note, Gen Suwat made no mention of any officers raiding any bars in Phuket for illegally selling alcohol, in defiance of a nationwide ban for all bars and other entertainment venues to remain closed during the current COVID-crisis.
Pol Gen Suwat and Pol Lt Gen Surachate have now both visited Phuket to publicly promote the project to make Phuket Old Town safer, despite no reports by police of any increase in crime there. Also, the officers have yet to announce the budget dedicated to completing the project.