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.