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Phuket Opinion: Ride the wave

PHUKET: The news this week that 123 lifeguards will be hired to patrol Phuket’s 12 main tourist beaches next year is the best news we have printed in a long time.

Sunday 11 November 2018, 09:00AM

Lifeguards at Nai Harn Beach cheer on the news that budget support for next year was on its way. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Lifeguards at Nai Harn Beach cheer on the news that budget support for next year was on its way. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The failure of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) to provide lifeguards at Phuket’s main tourist beaches – as promised 18 years ago when introducing a room rate tax of 1% on all rooms rented out on the island – is now complete.

Shame on the PPAO for sparking the Phuket lifeguard crisis by holding fast on offering a budget of only B19.8 million for the Phuket Lifeguard Service (PLS) to provide 98 lifeguards at 12 main beaches when they were already told that the budget is insufficient.

To put the blame where it rightly belongs, in September last year PLS Chief Prathaiyut Chuayuan made it plain that the PLS would accept a budget of about B22mn, but only to provide services for 10 months as lifeguards traditionally do not patrol Phuket’s beaches during the northeast monsoon, when surf along the west coast is flat and safe to swim.

He did point out, “that a budget of B30mn per year would be required to maintain year-round patrols by 98 lifeguards at the island’s 12 busiest tourist beaches.”

Now it’s going to cost B36.94mn for 123 lifeguards at the same beaches, plus nearly another million rightly spent on training – but that will not discount the fact that Phuket’s drowning death toll at our beaches this year has more than doubled compared with last year alone.

There is a long way to go, but this first step is a giant leap forward when looking back at the painful idiocy over the past 12 months that even saw “lifeguards” stand by unable to help while tourists and locals on surfboards rescued swimmers overwhelmed by the dangerous surf and rips.

What we are looking forward to is support in equipment but especially training, for which Surf Life Saving Australia and the American-based International Surf Life Saving Association (ISLA) have helped so generously over the years in bringing experienced, qualified surf lifesaving trainers to our shores.

They have done so much for us, let’s do a little something for them. The training budget of B997,400 accounts for B249,350 for each of the four planned training sessions, that’s just over B3,100 per head.

Let the professionals do it, not just some ring-ins who will allow for a little to be skimmed off the budget cream.

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Kurt | 11 November 2018 - 12:40:32

It would be great if we not only read the TAT Phuket 'Hosanna' tourist fgures, but same way also the PPAO 1% tourist tax amounts collected of these tourists. A monthly transparant info, please. The Naiharn Hotel ( 4-5 star) has a high occupancy . Only that hotel tourist tax must be already enough to cover Naiharn Beach life guard costs.

Kurt | 11 November 2018 - 10:43:37

Why start training in March or April 2019? ( BangkokPost).  Why not start training now? March/April 2019 'High season' is over.
What kind of 'matters' in this lifeguards portfolio are going on in office of PPAO? Did PPAO had not enough time? ( more than 1 year) Do they have to 'study' the 2 budgets a bit more first during the coming 4-5 months? No confidence in PPAO at all...

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