CHIANG RAI, 25 May 2018: Phuket is frequently described as a world-class destination, a term often over used by enthusiastic public relations gurus to polish image.
There is considerable truth to the assertion that Phuket competes with the world’s top beach destinations and invariably comes out on top.
It certainly wins enough silverware from global awards and opinion polls to suggest the Thai resort is a traveller’s paradise.
At this time of the year, the monsoon season rolls in from the southwest bringing with it storms and heavy seas along the island’s west coast and with them dangerous currents and rip tides that can easily ensnare swimmers.
The International Surf Lifesaving Association, a US-based organisation, has petitioned the island’s governor to ensure adequate life saving services are present at all the west coast beaches, year-round.
The reality is that of all Phuket’s beaches, just Patong Bay has permanent life saving patrols. Swimmers at the other bays including Karon and Surin, both high-risk beaches, are not patrolled.
ISLA points out that local funding that ensured local lifesaving teams were patrolling beaches last year is no longer on the table.
ISLA is calling on provincial authorities to rescind an agreement that would contract a Bangkok agency to operate lifesaving patrols and to revert to rehiring local teams that are already trained and ready to start patrols immediately at all beaches.
The situation suggests that when it comes safety on the sea Phuket is not demonstrating an acceptable duty of care level. If the situation is not rectified it will result in fatalities that could have been averted.
Beach resorts must invest in water safety if they want to be recognised as places that take the safety of the visitors seriously.
The colour-coded flags need to fly and professionally trained lifesavers need to keep a weather eye on visitors who might not be familiar with the heightened risks of swimming off Phuket’s beaches during the monsoon season. To do otherwise will court disaster and drowning.