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Phuket lifeguards to strike over budget cuts

PHUKET: Phuket’s lifeguards are threatening to go on strike from Oct 1 after the budget for their services was quietly cut yet again at an Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO) council meeting last month.

tourism, marine, accidents, death, politics, economics,

Tanyaluk Sakoot

Friday 22 September 2017, 06:07PM

A Phuket tourist waves as he walks past a red 'No Swimming' flag on the beach. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot
A Phuket tourist waves as he walks past a red 'No Swimming' flag on the beach. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

“September 30 is the last day of our current contract. We will not work from October 1. From that day tourists will see the sign ‘No lifeguard on duty’ on every beach in Phuket,” Phuket Lifeguard Chief Prathaiyuth Chuayuan confirmed to The Phuket News this week.

“We have decided that we can’t accept this budget, which is less than last year,” he added, explaining that the actual budget amount has been kept the same as last year at B19.8 million – but now with the expectation of lifeguards patrolling beaches for an extra two months of the year, not just during the dangerous southwest monsoon season, and with the Governor’s order to have them extend their patrols an hour later each day.

“Last year they already cut the budget by 10% on the year before and still we decided to continue to our work, but now they do this,” Mr Prathaiyuth said.

“We can’t continue like this. We cannot reduce Phuket’s lifeguards to match the reduced budget, which already is not enough to pay for the manpower and medical treatment provided and the rescue equipment needed to save lives,” he said.

One official at the PPAO Tourism and Sports Division who was willing to speak The Phuket News explained that the budget proposed at the council meeting at the beginning of August was for “about B23 million.”

However, the officer confirmed, “The council agreed a budget of only B19.8mn and that was to provide lifeguards services for 12 months next year. Last year, it was B19.8mn for eight months.”

PPAO Acting President Watcharin Patomwatthanapon was unavailable for comment.

PPAO Council Chairman Theera Jaisakul noted, “We held the meeting in August with 24 members to discuss many issues. I am glad to give information, but it is better to talk with PPAO Acting Chief (Watcharin).

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“I don’t have any further comment,” he added.

Despite the Phuket Governor’s call this week for transparency, and flying in the face of laws mandating that government offices publish their decisions and activities, no information on the decision to cut the lifeguards’ budget could be found on the PPAO website this week.

An officer at the Division of PPAO Council Affairs official pointed out, “The minutes from this meeting are not finished yet. It needs time.”

The threat of an impending strike comes as 65-year-old Australian woman and a 4-year-old Chniese tourist boy both drowned at Phuket beaches this week alone, with October among the most deadly months for people to enter the surf on Phuket’s west coast.

Australian Barbara Fistrovic died after being pulled unconscious from dangerous surf at Kamala late last Sunday afternoon (Sept 17). Her husband Ivan, 75, recovered after receiving emergency first aid on the beach.

The couple reportedly entered the surf where red “No Swimming” flags were posted.

Wu Muyang, from China, just 4 years old, drowned after he and his father were swept from rocks near the northern end of Patong Beach last Thursday night (Sept 14).

Phuket lifeguards as of Sept 1 had safely rescued 294 people – 265 foreigners and 29 Thais – so far this year, with seven deaths from drownings. Ms Fistrovic and young Wu Muyang brought that tally to nine.



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BenPendejo | 23 September 2017 - 10:50:06

Oh, the insanity of it all.  At least there will be free wi-fi so when people drown we will see it up on Facebook just as  it happens.  I'm surprised there isn't an increase in financing the jet-ski mafia so they can better afford pulling the dead bodies back to shore.  I swear, the world is getting dumber every day.

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Kurt | 23 September 2017 - 08:44:53

Funny, were the red flag is waving we see 3 persons in the surf.

Some time ago we red that Australians were coming to help the Thai beach guards to lift their professional skills to higher level.
Did that happens already?

The financial cut on beach guards income is, in times that everything becomes more expensive, not good.
Thai beaches, + towns, villages around it, generate a lot of Thailand's tourist income.
How can you cut on beach guards? Does it make sense?

For other things, as island wide free WiFi, and horse police at the beaches is money.
By the way, is the beach horse police still existing?
Or do refuse the horses to walk among parasail activities?

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Bigaresort | 23 September 2017 - 08:09:43

No more contract ! Pay everybody Baht 10.000 for a live one and 5000 for every dead one ,they bring back and let there country,relatives, pay the bill! Horst

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Foot | 23 September 2017 - 07:29:14

Unfortunately, Phuket continues to demonstrate it's disregard for tourists safety.
For some reason, Phuket continually makes choices that hurt the only real industry Phuket has - tourism.  This short sightedness will insure that the industry will continue it's rapid decline of the last four years.

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simon01 | 22 September 2017 - 21:43:14

 Well they do an amazing job with no help from the government. As to cuts in funding thats insane. Every person who gets rescued from OUTSIDE the swimming area has to be charged for the rescue. If thats set at 100,000 which is a fair price for the time and effort to mount a sea rescue then it will discourage people from swimming in the dangerous areas and provide more funds so a win win. Its been clear for many years the government does not care about tourists safety or the roads, tuk tuks, mini buses, beaches, speed boats, jet skis, para sailing, big buses will all have been kicked off the island years ago as all are destroying lives every year and ruining Phukets image. But nothing has been done. BUT the life guards are a massive credit to the island as they do an amazing job with almost no money to help them and they save countless lives each week. They are an essential part of the islands needs to promote the islands image while every other aspect is there to ruin tourism the lifeguards are the only good thing that is there to help tourists. Massive congratulations to every single one of them and so sad to see they are not supported by the government. They need money then try fining the speed boat drivers, speed boat companies, tuk tuk drivers, mini bus drivers and all the other areas that are ruining the islands image and put it to the areas that promote the islands image to tourists. That plus the fine for those stupid enough to need to be rescued outside the safe areas will provide many more badly needed lifeguards and the equipment they badly need. They are the biggest asset the island has in the service they provide to tourism and they get the least funding. Very sad to a great bunch of people doing an awesome job.

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