Our deepest condolences to her family and friends, who have unfailingly described Ms Collie as bright, bubbly and full of life. Our heartfelt sympathies also go to her boyfriend Thomas Keating, who was driving the jet-ski that struck her.
News of Ms Collie’s death echoed in headlines around the world, prompting officials to go scampering along the beaches to ensure the jet-ski operators were as legal as they could be with their token mandatory insurance coverage that fails to cover even minor damage to jet-skis – hence giving license for the jet-ski damage rip-offs and extortion of tourists to continue – nevermind a meagre B50,000 compensation in case of death. Even then, the knee-jerk raids this week still netted six jet-ski operators who were found to be lacking the required permits.
Even more Kafkaesque, the officers were checking the “legal requirements” for an entirely illegal industry – which is nonetheless permitted with the full blessing of the government itself. If that does not epitomise Thailand, little else will. To put it bluntly, to systematically profit from engaging in, organising or aiding and abetting an illegal activity is the very definition of organised crime. The government uses this definition when describing “mafia” suspects. There is no reason to shy away from using this word now.
Beach management was at the top of Governor Chockchai Dejamornthan’s list of issues in Phuket that needed urgent attention – and assistance from the Royal Thai Army to fix – this week. Regular readers of The Phuket News will need no reminding that soon after arriving on the island Gov Chockchai publicly pointed out that he knew of no laws that empowered government officers to issue permits to allow people to work on the beaches – and collect “fees” for such privileges. To no surprise he has since fallen silent on that issue – Welcome to Phuket, Mr Chockchai.
To be fair to the Governor, however, within months of seizing power in 2014 the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued a command for officials to clean up and regulate the business of jet-skis in many of Thailand’s famous beach destinations after the great “sand-kicking incident” at Pattaya. That’s about as high as authority can get in this country for the time being in legitimising an illegal business through recognition.
As many people posting comments on The Phuket News in the wake of Ms Collie’s fatal accident have pointed out, by law people must be issued a second-class helmsman license to operate a jet-ski in Thailand. On the surface, this license seems to be yet another ridiculous paper chase and another excuse for officials to hold jet-ski drivers to ransom, but it does achieve one thing: it recognises that a jet-ski is a vehicle like any other and is dangerous – nay, lethal – in inexperienced hands. Ms Collie has now paid the ultimate price for that knowledge.
For all their failings, the lawmakers who brought in this rule understood that licenses, like many other permits, are instituted to protect people from themselves. It takes little to understand why we don’t allow children to own guns, so why would we allow learner drivers to operate a high-speed vehicle?
If any government wants to steamroll over its own laws, they do so in the full foreknowledge the public will easily pick them off as moronic hypocrites. Either change the law, or change the requirements. At least do something to protect people from themselves.