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Phuket’s new ‘lifeguards’ late, to go on show

PHUKET: The unfolding saga of simply getting qualified lifeguards to patrol Phuket’s beaches passed another embarrassing milestone on Sunday (April 1), with The Phuket News having to independently confirm that lifeguards hired under a new contract with Bangkok-based consultancy LP Laikhum Co Ltd actually turned up for work over the weekend as ordered by the Phuket Governor last month.

tourism, marine, Safety,

The Phuket News

Tuesday 3 April 2018, 11:10AM

A family enjoys Surin Beach, where LP Laikhum lifeguards will go on show for the Governor this Thursday (April 5). Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot / file
A family enjoys Surin Beach, where LP Laikhum lifeguards will go on show for the Governor this Thursday (April 5). Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot / file

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.

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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.



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Kurt | 03 April 2018 - 19:28:45

Thai officials should be criticized for their promising bla bla and expectd follow ups not come off. They are servants  of the people, and get paid by the people ( tax payers money).
To many times we read about how Phuket top Officials 'order' something, and next? Nothing happen.
It is simple, the Phuket top authorities are not in charge. They not have any authority. 
Beach lifeguards? ...

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crispy | 03 April 2018 - 18:04:44

it is a pity that they do not have a area lifesaving club with some permanent/paid members and others who are volunteer lifegaurds like here in Australia our beaches are patrolled all through out the summer months admittedly it is a bit different in Thailand but this is a very dangerous situation with the amount of tourists frequenting the islands beaches every day.    

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BenPendejo | 03 April 2018 - 15:44:09

People criticize me for criticizing Thai officials, but this lifeguard debacle provides perhaps one of the most perfect examples of Thai officials' inability to carry out and manage even the most fundamental of services. Other examples would be ocean pollution and the worst road safety record on earth, but I won't go on about that right now. Time for Thailand to ask for some help.

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Discover Thainess | 03 April 2018 - 12:39:40

Same old, same old. Be it transport, waste management, safety, airport, police, or seemingly anything else here in Phuket, it remains a farce with the lunatics running the asylum.

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Paddy | 03 April 2018 - 11:48:02

It's like watching "THE THREE STOOGES "same crap every year, 10 month lifeguard contracts. Tourists and locals use the beaches all year round.The old lifeguards did the best job under the circumstances(no proper equipment)worked long hours for small money. Putting their life on the line every day. But they had to go through the crap every year to bid on a new contract that no one els...

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