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Ian 'Diver' Dick with Larry Cunningham before Surin got a beach club, when 'Diver' was said to be Surin's one-man lifeguard patrol

Australia's Phuket Branch Never Did Open, Thanks to Budget Cuts

Monday, September 30, 2013
PHUKET: Hundreds among the 3000 Australians who now live on Phuket could be forced to travel to Bangkok for passport renewals with the closure today of the Australian honorary consul's office on Phuket.

It could even be the New Year before a successor is appointed for Larry Cunningham, who marked his last day today by dealing with a string of consular inquiries.

He spent part of his weekend consoling relatives after the unexpected death of an Australian man on holiday, from natural causes.

Eight years ago, his role as Australia's representative on Phuket began in similar tragic fashion with the death in a whitewater rafting drowning of a young Australian woman.

Mr Cunningham was keen for the Australian Government to keep its promise to open a fully staffed consulate on Phuket, as it has in Bali.

But budget cutbacks killed that idea - even though the number of tourists visiting Phuket has tripled since Mr Cunningham was designated as the first Australian honorary consul on Phuket in 2005.

Efforts to implement practical arrangements that would have allowed Mr Cunningham to stay on part-time ran into a bureaucratic brick wall in Australia's national capital, Canberra.

Many other countries with far fewer tourists visiting Phuket have upgraded their facilities. Australians have been well-served by Mr Cunningham.

But in comparison to the way citizens from other countries have facilities provided, Australian tourists and Phuket residents lag well behind when it comes to a practical return on their taxes.

It's believed the Australian Embassy supported moves to upgrade the Phuket post, and now it is the envoys there who will bear the extra workload . . . and probably cop some unfair criticism.

Meanwhile, the process of selecting Mr Cunningham's replacement is underway.

However, it won't be quick because first Australian authorities then Thai officials will require months to check the background of the chosen candidate.

The Australian Embassy's First Secretary and Consul, Trudy McGowan, told Phuketwan today: ''The assessment process for the applications may take several months.

''Suitable candidates will need to be interviewed, background checks need to be undertaken and the approval of the Australian and Thai governments will be required for the successful candidate.

''It is not possible to predict how long this process will take.''

Meanwhile, Australians on Phuket who require notarial or passport services can visit the Australian Embassy in Bangkok.

Opening hours are 8.30am-4pm weekdays and no appointments are necessary.

In an emergency, Australians should contact the Australian Embassy in Bangkok via +66 2 3446300 or by calling 02 3446300 on a local telephone for assistance.

Comments

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The Australian Government will be hard pressed to find anyone that could come close to Larry Cunningham's calibre, dedication or moral fortitude.

Larry's shoes are might big to fill.

Posted by Graham on September 30, 2013 13:08

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Indeed, they will find the candidate choice very limited as there is very few Australian expatriates with a sustainable financial acumen behind them to do the job. Moreover, most have respectfully retired or prefer to remain in the dark because of having too many skeletons in the closet.
Plus I dont think too many would be able to get pass addressing the critical selection criteria. For example, "tell us in less than 250 words why do you want to be the Australian Honorary Consulate Representative for Phuket?"
The applicant's objective and reasoning behind that answer, for example, will be well scrutinized by many departments. However, it's not entirely impossible; but only a brave and fearless man or woman of steel should have applied.

Posted by Man of Steel on September 30, 2013 14:49

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And anyone with a serious problem try's to call the above phone numbers listed will be very disappointed when all they talk to is a machine with no hope of actually talking to a person.

Posted by coxo on September 30, 2013 18:55

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Mr Cunningham was a blessing to all expats on Phuket, not just Australians.

A fearless and outspoken man ready to stand up against abuse and injustice.

I salute you Larry and hope there would have been a way for you to stay with us.

Posted by ThaiMike on September 30, 2013 20:05


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