Minister Weerasak was in Phuket yesterday (Aug 22) to join the mass ceremonies to honour spirits of those lost to the Phoenix tour boat disaster, which killed 47 Chinese tourists when it capsized and sank in a storm off Koh Hei (Coral Island) on July 5.
The two days of ceremonies, being held at Saphan Hin, conclude this evening with a special multi-faith service. (See story here.)
During his address last night, Mr Weerasak said, “The Thai government would like to hold activities to heal the hearts of Chinese tourists’ relatives who were affected by the Phoenix incident. This is why Phuket Provincial officials have united with the Thai-Chinese Tourism Association, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to hold this event.
Mr Weerasak made no mention of B508 million budget request submitted to Cabinet, for which he pledged his public support at an event in Phuket last Sunday (Aug19). (See story here.)
However, he did add, “We will practice genuine marine safety in action soon.”
Mr Weerasak has publicly confirmed that the budget request was presented at the mobile Cabinet meetings held in Chumphon and Ranong on Monday and Tuesday this week (Aug 20-21).
The ‘Marine Safety Plan’ includes a new ‘Marine Surveillance and Assistance Centre’ to offer better protection to tourists. The centre will be set up and funded by fiscal 2019, which starts in October, Mr Weerasak said. (See story here.)
Speaking at the mass ceremony last night, Minister Weerasak noted, “Here, we are on focusing on assuaging the anguish of the relatives of those directly affected by the disaster by bringing to justice the people responsible for this incident.
“Now, Royal Thai Police Deputy Commander Gen Rungroj Saengkram will lead the investigation which is being carried out by 100 other investigators who will gather evidence in the case.
“Meanwhile, it has been 49 days since the Phoenix disaster and the boat still has yet to be recovered. This is because unfavourable weather conditions have delayed the efforts and the project to raise the boat has not been completed yet,” he said.
Wiwat Chitchertwong, who is currently the Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office, told The Phuket News yesterday that all preparations have been made for raising the Phoenix, which lies on the seabed at a depth of 45 metres some 1.5 nautical miles off Koh Hei, south of Phuket.
“All tethers for raising the Phoenix have been secured to the boat, but we are still waiting for good weather. We need stable water in order to safely use the crane to lift the boat to the surface.
“If we’re lucky, we might be able to do it by Friday (Aug 25),” he said.
The Director-General of the Marine Department, Jirut Wisanjit, announced during his visit to Phuket on Aug 5 that once raised, the Phoenix will be taken to Rattanachai Shipyard in Rassada, on the east side of Phuket Town, where investigators and experts will have 30 days to inspect it. (See story here.)