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Phuket Opinion: Safety a priority, but for who?

PHUKET: It’s a platitude we seem to hear endlessly repeated and with steadily increasing frequency as high season engulfs our “world-class tourist destination”. It emerges from the mouth of whoever is Phuket Governor at the time and echoed by high-ranking officials. Yes, we’re talking about that reassuring assertion that, “Tourist safety is a top priority”.

opinion, marine, accidents, death, tourism, transport,

The Phuket News

Sunday 14 January 2018, 09:00AM

A tourist puts on a life jacket before a tour speed boat heads out to the nearby islands on a day trip. Image: Supplied
A tourist puts on a life jacket before a tour speed boat heads out to the nearby islands on a day trip. Image: Supplied

We usually don’t doubt the sincerity of Governors, nor of the other officials who publicly make such statements – after all, isn’t ensuring tourists’ safety is critical to Phuket’s image as an idyllic care-free playground for sun-seeking travellers. However, as earnest as these top officials are, we are left to ponder how exactly these words trickle down into practical safety improvements for tourist activities.

This writer hosted visitors over the holiday period, and it being their first visit they were excited as countless tourists are, to take a tour to the famous Phi Phi Island. Upon their return, they said the visit was, well, okay… even after realising they had joined the thousand or more tourists who also visited that day. However, a slightly less enjoyable part of the trip was having to endure the “scariest thing we have ever experienced”.

Returning to pier, they explained, “The boat flew in at top speed. We nearly hit another boat. We were terrified! But the boat crew were thoroughly enjoying themselves.”

As if to demonstrate the disconnect between official rhetoric and reality, this incident occurred not long after officials announced “ramping up high season marine safety”.

A Japanese woman was recently killed by a boat propeller while scuba diving. Tragically, following correct safety protocol would have saved her life.

Several tourists were also severely injured in recent motorbike accidents and you can bet your bottom dollar that the majority of them didn’t have a valid motorbike licence.

Phuket officials will surely keep mouthing feel-good notions about the priority of tourists’ safety, but such rhetoric will do little to change the attitudes and practices of the tourism operators, who are on the front line when it comes to keeping the tourists under their care safe.

Sadly, it appears that money trumps safety for many cavalier operators. Platitudes will never match a rigorous safety training and licensing scheme backed by the tough enforcement of penalties for breaching safety protocols.

Officials, please take note.



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ematt | 16 January 2018 - 10:35:23

"The culture is a perfect incubator of selfishness fostering disregard for anyone else. I'm afraid miscegenation is about the only way to change it, and hurrah for sexpats who are breeding western values into their kids (or trying.)"

In the sewer that is the comments section of this newspaper, this has to take THE all time top prize for racist neocolonial hate mongering. Truly bre...

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malczx7r | 16 January 2018 - 09:39:12

"Caring, compassionate and thinking, not being selfish" isn't that what Buddhism is supposed to teach? Or maybe that only applies to other people of the same race and not farangs! And here's me thinking society was improving!

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Christy Sweet | 16 January 2018 - 08:26:06

 Stop trying to change Thais into caring,  compassionate, smart  and thinking folk. The culture is a perfect incubator of selfishness fostering disregard  for anyone else. I'm afraid miscegenation is about the only way to change it, and hurrah for sexpats who are breeding western values into their kids (or trying.) 

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Kurt | 15 January 2018 - 11:22:59

So very true:  .."In this country, words are the same as action"...
How nice to be a Official or Authority in this country.

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Sir Burr | 15 January 2018 - 09:48:03

You don't understand.
For officials in this country, words are the same as action. You are then supposed to forget the subject as it has already been addressed.

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Kurt | 14 January 2018 - 18:32:20

It seems there are  many nonsense laws, just with purpose to make things normal difficult, but with money making it easy.
( Like the night life closing time of 01:00 am)
How about the law for rental firms?
The are the first shackle  in the safety chain.
Why are thai rental firms free as a bird in renting out to non licensed tourists?
Motor bikes, jet skies.

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Discover Thainess | 14 January 2018 - 16:44:34

Lucky their boat didn’t explode like the one did today. Your article is quite correct: money is king, safety is just paid lip service.

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CaptainJack69 | 14 January 2018 - 12:33:04

As long as anyone with a motorbike can hang a "FOR RENT" sign on it on a public road and collect money from tourists with absolutely no system of checks or regulation at all, handing the keys over to unsuspecting unlicensed and inexperienced tourists often without issuing so much as a receipt, and without having to pay anything for the privilege, in the country with the worlds deadliest ...

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