Phuket Immigration Chief Pol Col Thanet Sukchai confirmed to The Phuket News that Pol Lt Gen Pakpoompipat Sajjapan, Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, has approved of the ‘red card’ system.
However, the system is not to be deployed nationwide by policy, and rightly so. Immigration officers in each province are to decide for themselves whether or not to introduce the system in their areas.
As noted in ‘Phuket Opinion’ last week, local Immigration officers, just like in any other country, have always had the right to issue warnings and even deport foreigners caught breaking the law. The system of ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ cards introduced by Phuket Immigration is nothing more than a public relations exercise – but it is a good one. Tourists need to know this is what they face if they wantonly break the law here, especially when on the roads without any due regard to other people.
The Phuket News wholeheartedly supports Alain Faudot, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket, and Christophe Hemmings, Consul at the French Embassy in Thailand, expressing their thanks to Phuket officials for the action taken in curtailing French tourists disturbing the peace with dangerous driving on motorbikes.
This is what is needed to encourage local officials to continue to take action. The campaign has received much support from local residents all along the west coast, and some further inland, as well as several local consuls with whom The Phuket News has spoken with.
However, the problem lies in the request for government representatives being asked to inform their nationals about the law in Thailand before they travel here on holiday. Most governments, including the French, already have long done exactly that.
The problem is that the warnings sit on a government website, usually for the respective country’s Foreign Affairs ministry. This is likely the last place any tourist will look for travel advice unless they are heading into an obviously dangerous, say war-torn, area.
Tourism officials need to step up with their own campaign to inform tourists of what potentially lies ahead during their holiday to Phuket. The private sector could also play its part. What is needed is a simple information pack – in print or digital, possibly available in an app, that each tourist is provided. This could be provided with each visa issued, at point of sale when tickets to Phuket are purchased or presented to tourists on arrival.
However, the earlier the tourists are provided the information the better, as it might affect their decision to travel here… and that is exactly why tourism officials are more prone to be “real information adverse”. That position is understandable, but key tourism officials must admit their role in not informing tourists of possible laws that tourists might be caught out, simple laws such as wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike and having the correct licence to operate any vehicle in Thailand. By the time tourists get here, it is a little late for them to start thinking about getting an International Driving Permit… one of the great money makers for local police. Not informing tourists feels more like a ‘bait and switch’ operation.
An info pack, possibly under the name ‘Thailand law and safety guide’, does not have to be an encyclopedia of local laws. The briefer the better. Tourists just need to be aware of the consequences of the main issues they are likely to run into. Including an advisory on local cannabis laws and enforcement at this time would seem prudent.
The info pack can also serve as a promotional device advising tourists of not just local laws, but also local customs to respect as well as even basic safety information warning tourists of the dangers of jellyfish and often lethal rip currents at the beaches during the ‘rainy season’. This last one will become very pertinent soon with road shows recently held in India and Saudi Arabia being touted as successful, with more tourists from those two countries in particular expected to grace our shores in the coming months.
Through no fault of their own, Middle Eastern and Indian tourists have in recent years bore the brunt of being caught in deadly rips. Somehow they are expected to know on landing to strictly follow lifeguards’ instructions while at the beach. To any regular beachgoers this might seem to be a no-brainer, but the reality is that Phuket attracts many people who are not accustomed to surf safety, and the beaches are exactly why they come here.
All of these critical issues could be addressed in one fell swoop, instead of local laws being made public piecemeal by each relevant government department, and often in Thai language only. All we need are the right people to step up and take the simplest of action.
Kurt | 13 March 2023 - 17:01:32