If Polish tourist Mateusz Juszkiewicz, 26, and Thai national Werakan Sirirakon, 23, who disappeared while while kayaking with friends off Yanui Beach, off Phuket’s southwest coast, last Saturday afternoon (Dec 7), are not miraculously found alive, the tally of tourists killed by the waters around Phuket will rise to 12 in the past seven weeks – eight of those in just one month.
What cannot be ignored is that these tourists were doing only what countless other tourists had had done before them, and many more since.
Worse, all of the deaths were preventable. At face value, this all seems too much for local operators and officials to comprehend. If that is not the case, the only logical presumption to be made is that tour operators just don’t care enough to take any further action.
The Phuket navy base commander and the Tourist Police chief stepping up to voice their concerns can be taken, thankfully, as a clear sign that attitude is not acceptable. The public call for improved water-safety measures may also herald the introduction of even more regulations.
Thailand has a habit of going from zero regulation to over-regulation in a knee-jerk blink of an eye, but as many readers rightly pointed out last week with the news of the impending introduction of the demerit points system for driver’s licences, all that regulation means nothing without enforcement.
After all, the Phoenix tour boat disaster of last year that killed 47 Chinese tourists and marked the beginning of the downturn in tourism for the whole country did not happen without some officials allowing the boat to put to sea despite regulatory requirements.
Yet, as with the demerit points system, hope lies in introducing a system that removes the option of local officials and operators having a choice of ignoring the law. Failing that, how much luck or poor judgement plays a part in a tourist staying alive while on holiday in Phuket is anyone’s guess.