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Envoys push Phuket for action on tuk-tuks, jet-skis and tourism safety

Envoys Nudge Phuket to Act on Jet-Skis, Tuk-Tuks

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
WIDE-RANGING talks about Phuket's problems between Phuket's Governor and envoys visiting Phuket are pointing the way to change for the better for Phuket.

Britain's new Ambassador to Thailand, Asif Ahmad, and Consul Michael Hancock, talked frankly with Governor Tri Augkaradacha yesterday amid a spirit of cooperation on jet-skis, tuk-tuks, and the common aims of Phuket expat visitors and residents to see Phuket prosper.

''There's a real commitment to improve Phuket as an economy but doing it carefully so we don't damage the ecology,'' Mr Ahmad said after a day of talks around Phuket.

And one issue, crime, he nailed in a nutshell.

''The jet-ski situation is still a problem and it shouldn't remain one,'' the ambassador said.

''There are instances where instead of looking at the crime from the point of view of the victims, they [the police] look at it to see if they can make the problem go away. This is not just about tourists as victims, but also for Thai people.''

Admirably more forthright than his predecessors, the ambassador said he noted on Phuket ''a will to improve things, and to address some of the concerns we have.''

''As I keep saying, the vast majority of our citizens here have nothing but a good time,'' he told Phuketwan after meeting the Governor at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

''Very few people get into difficulties. When that happens, it's important that all the agencies come together to help.

''I have a very vivid memory of what happened after the tsunami. We worked very hard, we succeeded in looking after people in a very difficult situation. I see good signs of that cooperation here still.''

The quarterly meetings between Phuket's expat envoy representatives, which began last year, have sparked for the first time an innovative cooperative approach to finding solutions for Phuket.

British honorary consul Martin Carpenter and others have become advocates for improvements, and the visits by ambassadors are helping to promote changes that should benefit everyone.

''Phuket is busier for sure,'' said Mr Ahmad, who first came to Phuket as a tourist before the 2004 tsunami. ''There are more restaurants, the quality of the accommodation now suits all budgets, from film stars to the back-packer.

''There's a rich offering. The challenge you face here is, how do you keep the product alive? Why should anyone keep coming back to Phuket?

''They can go to Penang, they can go to Langkawi, they can go to Bali, they can go to the Seychelles. You are competing in a global market.

''You have to preserve what is good, and retain the authenticity of the place. What you have in Phuket City, for example, is reminiscent of the island's history.

''You need to conserve what is good, but also build what is new and fresh. If you have an efficient railway system from the airport, that would be a good thing.''

On the safety and security of tourists on Phuket, he said: ''I think the biggest challenge for us is to educate and advise our own citizens. Visitors should not do something in Thailand that they would not do at home.

''Over here they see one or two people not wearing helmets and they think 'mai ben rai.'''

He added that the work of the embassy staff and its honorary consuls was constant.

''We have about one death a day,'' he said. ''Not all from motorcycle accidents, many of them are natural causes. But there are an alarming number of serious injuries.''

The ambassador said that embassy representatives aimed to play a more active role in safety, and would be back on Phuket before June to explain to tourists what to do and not to do when swimming in the dangerous monsoon season.

[Latest figures reveal nine drownings at Phuket's Karon beach between April and February, and a total of 13 for Phuket's popular tourist beaches.]

''The jet-ski situation is still a problem and it shouldn't remain one,'' the ambassador said, moving onto Phuket crime.

''I've been discussing today particularly sex offences,'' he said. ''The police should be trained to deal sympathetically with the situation. I want to bring some British expertise in rape couselling and prosecution.''

The setting of maximums for Phuket's much-criticised tuk-tuk transportation was ''better but not perfect,'' the ambassador said. ''Ideally, we should get to a situation where you get in the taxi and what the meter tells you is what you pay.''
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Saturday February 24, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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