The call came at a meeting at the PPAO head office in Phuket Town this afternoon after PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwatthanapong announced that the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa, on Phuket’s east coast, will conduct a three-day lifeguard training course for government officers.
“We don’t have details yet. We have to talk with the Royal Thai Navy later, but the course course will take a maximum of 150 volunteers,” Mr Watcharin said.
“We want officers from local municipalities and OrBorTor to become lifeguards. This is urgent, we need lifeguards,” he added.
“The deadline to receive the names of the officials from each municipality who will join the training is Oct 12. The OrBorTor and municipalities must send the names directly to us,” Mr Watcharin said.
At the same meeting it was revealed that Chinese tourist Sa Gnan, just 29 years old, drowned at Karon Beach yesterday (Oct 5) despite local Civil Defense Volunteers patrolling the beach. (See story here.)
Vice Governor Thawornwat Khongkaew, recently promoted from the position of Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) at the Phuket Provincial Office to Phuket Vice Governor (see story here), voiced his support for local municipal officers to be trained as lifeguards.
“We need to do something for water safety, and the PPAO has a plan,” he said.
However, in response the mayors and leading officials at three of Phuket’s main tourist beaches today said they would prefer to arrange their lifeguards but with the support of the PPAO.
Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup was clear in her opinion.
“Patong Beach is fine. We are not worried because we have our own lifeguards, but the PPAO must help other municipalities,” she said.
Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos, whose jurisdiction includes Nai Harn and Yanui Beaches, called for his municipality to arrange its own lifeguards, but with support from the PPAO.
“We need real lifeguards, not non-experienced people working as lifeguards,” he said. We want you to support us. I want to solve this problem and make the beaches as safe as possible.
“The PPAO can provide support through funds, then we can do by ourselves. The PPAO can just support us by providing the budget for us,” Mayor Aroon added.
MaAnn Samran, Chief of the Cherng Talay OrBorTor, was more outspoken in his opinion.
‘This is your fault. You don’t have ability to do this any more. Don’t ignore this issue. Let us do it,” he said.
PPAO Council Chairman Theera Jaisakul responded to the volley of criticism with, “We want to make Phuket lifeguards better. We want Phuket lifeguards to be trained the same standards as lifeguards in Australia and Miami, but everything needs time.”
Council President Teera last week publicly vowed to have lifeguards on Phuket’s beaches by last Sunday, the day after the Phuket Lifeguard Service contract expired.
“The PPAO can provide Phuket lifeguards ourselves. We do not need Phuket Lifeguard Service Co Ltd anymore,” Mr Teera said. (See story here.)
The PPAO has led the role in ensuring lifeguards patrolled Phuket’s beaches after it launched a 1% room tax on all hotel rooms rented out across the island in 2000 on the promise of providing the lifeguards.
However, the Phuket Lifeguard Service declined to bid for the annual government tender to provide lifeguard services in protest that the budget provided was insufficient. (See story here.)
Meanwhile, the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) will be sending 20 Humanitarian Lifeguard Trainers from around the world to conduct their international certification course in November.
The expert lifeguards that will be conducting the training hail from well-respected life-saving organisations including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) UK; Surf Lifesaving Australia (SLSA); Westpac Rescue Helicopter Australia; Huntington Beach Municipal Lifeguards (CA, USA); Laguna Beach Municipal Lifeguards (CA, USA); among others.
The course is free.
For more details about the course, click here.