The Phuket News has received mixed reports, ranging from “swimming pool lifeguards” only – not qualified beach lifeguards – on duty at Surin Beach on the northwest coast to lifeguards just patrolling the sands elsewhere on Sunday.
With Acting Chief of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) Watcharin Patomwattanapong consistently unavailable to answer questions about the lifeguard crisis and no public information for contacting LP Laikhum for comment, The Phuket News finally managed to track down one contact at LP Laikhum – however, not an executive – who would only say, “I cannot give any details at this stage. Please call me back on Thursday.”
Governor Norraphat at a meeting on March 21 handed down the deadline for LP Laikhum lifeguards to start work at Phuket beaches on April 1.
However, that news broke via state news agency National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT), which is the news publishing arm of the Public Relations Department of Thailand (PR Dept).
For some reason, the local Phuket Provincial office of the PR Dept failed to report that Governor had issued that deadline. (See story here.)
Silence followed, and Sunday passed – and now provincial authorities are saying that LP Laikhum lifeguards will start actual patrols this Thursday (April 5).
“I do not know what they are doing before April 5. Their first showing will be on April 5 when LP Laikhum lifeguards will line up on Surin Beach to show the Governor they are ready to start work,” Phuket Vice Governor Thawornwat Khongkaew told The Phuket News late yesterday (April 2).
“Next will be Patong and Kamala beaches,” V/Gov Thawornwat added. However, he did not give a date when lifeguards will start at those beaches.
Asked what is happening with lifeguards at other beaches, V/G Thawornwat answered, “That is the responsibility of local municipalities.”
At least that point was in accordance with Governor Norraphat’s order handed down angrily on Dec 12 following the PPAO repeatedly failing to organise essential life-saving patrols on Phuket’s beaches. (See story here.)
V/Gov Thawornwat yesterday also said Governor Norraphat had ordered PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwattanapong to “hand over the budget for lifeguards to local municipalities… so they can pay LP Laikhum direct for lifeguard services.
“This process will take two months,” he added.
Under the current B13 million contract to provide lifeguards, quietly offered and approved in February (see story here), LP Laikhum Co Ltd is to be granted:
• B4.68mn in funding to provide lifeguards and lifesaving equipment at beaches in Muang District (including Kata-Karon and Nai Harn);
• B4.745mn for beaches in Thalang District (from Surin Beach northwards, including Layan, Leypang,Nai Thon and Nai Yang beaches); and a further
• B3.807mn to provide essential lifeguard services in Kathu District (including Patong and Kamala).
Meanwhile, the failure to provide qualified lifeguards has resulted in the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) to issue a resolution to formally request the US Department of State to issue a “Level Three Advisory” warning American tourists of the dangers of swimming in Phuket without trained lifeguards on the beaches.
The resolution noted, “The arrival of the southwest monsoon in May of each year renders Phuket’s ocean waters extremely dangerous for US Citizens and global visitors, and… Hundreds of visitors, including US Citizens, have drowned in the ocean waters surrounding Phuket, Thailand, in the last ten years.” (See story here.)
With the Phuket lifeguard fiasco continuing, with each level government seemingly not knowing or not understanding what each other is doing – while the PPAO fails to publicly respond or explain any of its actions to resolve the crisis – The Phuket News asked its readers in an online poll, “How should Phuket's lifeguards be provided?”
The poll, which ran for two weeks, concluded on Sunday (April 2), with 11% of respondents voting, “Local government offices should organise and pay for their own lifeguards for their own beaches.”
A further 15% voted, “The PPAO should provide lifeguards for all Phuket beaches under a provincial budget”, while another 15% of respondents voted, “Local government offices should organise to have their own lifeguards for their own beaches - but under a budget fully funded by the central government.”
However, a clear majority of 59% of all respondents voted, “A provincial office of a national government department – such as the DDPM or the Governor's Office – should organise having lifeguards at all beaches in Phuket but fully paid for under a budget provided by the central government
To see the poll results, click here.