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Phuket Governor ends lifeguard crisis, targets airport woes, floods

Phuket Governor ends lifeguard crisis, targets airport woes, floods

PHUKET: Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong today unleashed an angry tirade at officials for the flood of problems that are plaguing Phuket, starting with the lifeguard crisis but also taking aim at the poor state of Phuket International Airport and the lack of proactive action to prevent flooding, especially in Patong.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Tuesday 12 December 2017, 06:59PM

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong took no prisoners in bringing officials to task over repeated failure to fix the problems plaguing Phuket. Photo: PR Dept

Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong took no prisoners in bringing officials to task over repeated failure to fix the problems plaguing Phuket. Photo: PR Dept

Governor Norraphat unloaded at officials who were called to a meeting at the Governor’s House at 7:30am today (Dec 12).

Regarding the ongoing debacle over the failure of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (OrBorJor, or PPAO) to secure full-time lifeguards to patrols Phuket’s beaches during the dangerous southwest monsoon season.

Gov Norraphat called out for a response to the problem only to learn that PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwatthanapong was not present at the meeting – a fact that only added fuel to the Governor’s ire.

The lack of responsibility shown by the PPAO led to Governor Norraphat this morning making the unilateral decision to end the crisis by handing the responsibility of providing lifeguards to the local municipalities and Tambon Administration Organisations (OrBorTor).

The PPAO will no longer be involved, he said.

“I could see this problem coming, but I thought it would be resolved. But then it happened. This is all from overcomplicated conditions of hiring. The OrBorTor must take over this responsibility. The OrBoJor is to be no longer involved [in hiring lifeguards],” he said.

“I also ask the Royal Thai Navy to please help me with this issue. Draw up plans for volunteer training. Please keep me up to date with reports. I will still follow this closely,” Gov Norraphat added.

At that point, Gov Norraphat’s anger boiled over.

“Even the Tourism Minister has called me [about this]… And you don’t know anything.

“This makes me uncomfortable. Damn it, I have to do everything. You have to work hard and harder,” Gov Norraphat remonstrated.

Patong a national laughing stock

Next, Gov Norraphat turned his attention to the never-ending problems with flooding in Patong, noting how the recurring flooding was turning Patong into a national joke.

“I am tired of Patong Police Station being flooded. It is is causing immeasurable damage to Phuket’s reputation. It shows everyone that we cannot even stop the flooding in Patong,” Governor Norraphat said.

“The flooding happens every time it rains, every year. I can’t stand it anymore – especially when photos of the floods are distributed everywhere in public. Then a national news report says that ‘Patong is Waterworld’ because of Patong Police Station is located lower than other places.”

To this he called on the Phuket Provincial Public Works and Town & Country Planning Office to respond. Again, no one from that office was present at the meeting.

“The Phuket Provincial Public Works and Town & Country Planning Office must be held responsible for this. The contract was for B400 million and signed two years ago – but still the contractor has yet to begin work.

“Patong Municipality has tried to figure out a way past this, but they cannot do anything because the contract already signed is still in effect. They cannot ‘replace’ this previous contract,” he explained.

Gov Norraphat instructed Patong Deputy Mayor Boonma Eaibsub, who was present at the meeting, “You have to make an appointment to speak to me further about this. I will lead this issue. You can also invite the Phuket Marine Office, the Phuket Provincial Public Works and Town & Country Planning Office and the contractor.”

Gov Norraphat told Patong Deputy Mayor Boonma, “You should upgrade Patong Station. Just use concrete to raise the level of the parking lot there. You can do it.”

However, Deputy Mayor Boonma in response just sat silently.

I will not give up on this. I cannot stand it,’ Gov Norraphat said.

It is a B400 million contract, that is not little budget – and it is for solving the problem of Patong flooding, and it is causing nothing but trouble for me.”

Gov Norraphat asked Patong Police officers, if possible, to park somewhere higher up so their vehicles will not be stuck in floodwaters. He also called on everyone not to share photos or talk “too much” about flooding.

“People love to show the level flooding to others. How it has reached the top of their car. Please inform them [to follow this advice],” he said.

Gov Norraphat also held the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) Phuket office accountable for its role in preventing flood damage across Phuket, and called on DDPM-Phuket Director Prapan Kanprasang start drawing up plans on setting up assistance centre through which officers can render assistance to tourists affected by floods.

“Damn it. We can fix this,” he said.

Airport under fire

Still hot under the collar, Gov Norraphat ordered action be taken to fix the problems at Phuket International Airport, which is managed by the public company Airports of Thailand (AoT) Co Ltd.

“Phuket airport has a problem. Already 300 aircraft land here each day, and in the next two years it will not be able to accommodate all the tourists coming here. It will be overloaded, and so we need a plan on how we are going to manage all these tourists,” he said.

“And right now we have a leaking roof,” Gov Norraphat added.

“We need to fix these problems and draw up plans on how we are going to cope with the growing number of tourists,” he noted.

Gov Norraphat also called on more accurate reporting of the number of tourists coming to Phuket.

“We keep seeing reports that Phuket attracts about 15 million tourists a year. The information is not correct, and we have to fix this,” he said.

While those present sat silently at meeting no one was willing to clarify that the most-common misreporting estimating that about 15 million tourists visit Phuket a year, is that 15 million is the number of passengers passing through the airport – not the estimated number of tourists visiting Phuket, which is about half that number.

Bringing his day of orders to a close, Gov Norraphat said he wanted “tourist centres” set up across the island to provide assistance and tourist information in Chinese, English and Russian languages.

“So please, Tourism & Sport officials, go draw up a plan for this and report back to me,” he said.

“I want everyone to be clear that with any issue we work together,” Gov Norraphat noted.

“I don’t want to hear any gossip or speaking behind my back to each other. We are working together. Let’s pick up these problems here and now,” he said.

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Kurt | 13 December 2017 - 14:05:50

Publicity and comments are red in the Government buildings in Bangkok.
It is good that the Governor, as the representative of the central Government feels some ministerial heat.
That Phuket officials don't bother to attend their 'own' meetings makes it crystal clear that Phuket is a bit of a pirate nest.
And with closed eyes it is easy to point finger to the worse examples.
Lies ab...

Andy | 13 December 2017 - 12:00:33

I pass through the airport (in and out) 8-10 times a year so the real figure is much lower than 15 million.
It is now peak season yet many of the bars/restaurants in the Laguna area (Tinley Place and Boat Avenue) were virtually empty at 9pm last night. A few Russians and Chinese are about but almost no Europeans. This does not bode well for local businesses. 

Fascinated | 13 December 2017 - 09:07:00

I sense a re-shuffle ahead. Every time a Governor raises issues like this he 'suddenly' finds himself off to 'Nakkon Nowhere'. The Golden Geese are too busy squeezing Phuket dry and don't appreciate interference of this sort.

As for not highlighting issues on social media shaming is the only way to achieve action.  He's right- Phuket, and especially Patong, infrastructur...

Timothy | 13 December 2017 - 08:07:44

Unfortunately, he will be transferred soon. Making too many waves. Says a lot when the local officials he called to meet, didn't even bother to show up! They don't like being told to what to do. New Governor coming soon.... 

simon01 | 12 December 2017 - 19:36:49

I love this governor. He knows the facts and the laziness of officials. He can see the figures for tourists is half whats being claimed. Anyone with eyes can see Phuket has half the numbers that were here even a few years ago let alone 10 - 15 years ago. Even with the less numbers the Governor can see the airports a mess and nothing has been done about the floods. Give them a good bollocking. 

crispy | 12 December 2017 - 19:08:03

If that is what is meant to be an international airport you really need some help ,i was there in november and it is the crappiest airport i have ever been to escalators not working ,taxis dropping you off at the arrivals hall instead of the departures ,no real ammount of taxis to ferry people to there destinantions around the island should i go on ? you really need some help govenor. 

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