The incident came to public knowledge only after a video of the jet-ski approaching the tourists at speed then circling them several times was posted online. The video, posted last Thursday (Oct 10) subsequently went viral on Thai social media sites. (See video here.)
Phang Nga Marine Office Chief Nachapong Pranit told The Phuket News today (Oct 16) that the jet-ski owner, Sompong Hasat, and his staffer riding the jet-ski, Kiattiwat Srinuan, presented themselves at Phang Nga Marine Office yesterday (Oct 15) to be held accountable for their role in the incident.
Also called to hear the warning was Sommai Prukmaidee, Deputy Mayor of Tambon Phru Nai, which encompasses the Koh Khai islands east of Phuket. Although the Koh Khai islands are some 7.6 kilometres off Phuket’s east coast, they are within the ambit of Koh Yao District of Phang Nga Province.
“Kiattiwat explained that he had a Chinese tourist as passenger while riding the jet-ski around Koh Khai Nok. The Chinese tourist asked him to ride to where her friends were swimming in order to take photos,” Mr Nachapong said.
“He rode close to her friends and around other tourists twice then came ashore,” he added.
“Kiattiwat said he was sorry and that felt guilty for what he did. He just wanted to impress the tourist. Now he understands that what he did was dangerous and may harm other tourists,” Mr Nachapong said.
Mr Nachapong confirmed that his office fined Kiattiwat B2,000 for working as a helmsman whose licence has expired.
“He also will be prosecuted for riding the jet-ski without a licence. The punishment is six months imprisonment or a fine not more than B10,000, or both,” Mr Nachapong added.
Mr Nachapong said that details for Kiattiwat to be prosecuted for operating the jet-ski without a licence will be handed over to Phang Nga Town Police for further action.
Of note, under Thai law, a person – including tourists – must have a valid Helmsman Class 2 licence in order to legally operate a jet-ski.
The jet-ski owner, Sompong, was fined B10,000 for using an unlicensed vessel, Mr Nachapong also confirmed.
However, Mr Nachapong did not elaborate on whether the illegal jet-ski was seized pending its legal registration.
Following the dangerous incident involving tourists at the small islands off Phuket’s east coast, Phuket Marine Office Director Wiwat Chitchertwong told The Phuket News today (Oct 16) that he has issued a warning to all jet-ski operators in Phuket to make sure the same dangerous antics do not happen here.
“I have coordinated with the heads of the jet-ski clubs (sic) in Phuket to urge them that all 286 jet-ski owners in Phuket must obey the rules, drive jet-skis safely and not operate them near people,” Mr Wiwat said.
He also warned that operators of any unregistered jet-skis may be fined up to B10,000 fine or be imprisoned up to six months, or both.
“We will give only this one warning. If any jet-ski operators – even those who do have a licence – are caught doing such dangerous behavior, they will be fined and we will revoke their jet-ski license,” Mr Wiwat said.