“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).
“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.