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Lives of swimmers must not be sacrificed to bureaucratic bungling on Phuket

Haggle Over Lifeguards Could Cost Lives

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
PHUKET: It's likely to be two weeks or more before lifeguards return to the beaches of Phuket, a holiday island promoted as a year-round swimming destination.

Phuket has already been without lifeguards on the beaches since March 27, when an annual contract expired for a vital job that needs a better deal.

Yet to be determined is who will win the next annual contract to supply lifeguards to the 13 most significant beaches on Phuket, most of them on the popular west coast.

The arrival of the monsoon season on Phuket usually brings rip currents that have claimed many lives in the past.

With no lifeguards on Phuket's beaches and rip currents emerging, needless drownings are very likely to occur.

Shamefully, the question of the safety of swimmers appears to be overlooked as officials from the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation seem determined to haggle about the numbers of lifeguards on the beaches.

What may not be understood is that families from developed countries who lose relatives on Phuket's beaches while lifeguards are not present may well resort to seeking compensation through the Thai courts, and that could mean the PPAO facing an action or more than one action involving millions of dollars.

The fact that such petty haggling takes place almost every year over such an essential service for a beach holiday island with an international reputation only indicates how out of touch the Phuket authorities have become to the real needs of tourists.

Phuketwan has in the past interviewed friends and relatives of tourists who have drowned needlessly on Phuket and it is a task we do not wish to have to perform again.

In recent weeks, the efforts of Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong have been directed towards drawing lines on the beaches to separate the umbrella permitted zones from the no umbrella zones.

He is the one who will bear the brunt of negative reaction if a single tourist drowns on a Phuket beach without lifeguards.

Priorities on Phuket appear to be constantly obscured by unimportant matters when the issues that really count are all about life and death.

Phuket's lifeguards should be ranked with police and firemen and not have to submit to the ridiculous indignity of an annual tendering process.

The fact that officials cannot get their act together early enough to avoid this shameful neglect every year is a black mark against all Phuket authorities.

Now the PPAO wishes to argue that their 22 million baht should buy 95 lifeguards, not 88.

There is a quaint Australian phrase, and coming from the country that has a good reputation for lifesaving, we feel it's appropriate: ''Pull your heads in.''

Lifeguards need to be back on Phuket's beaches before the monsoon breaks.

Unless the PPAO regains some common sense within the next day or so, Phuketwan will be doing its best to inform international media about the dangers and advising all swimmers to find an alternative destination.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


This is actually ridicules. Every year the same situation. I do not understand why the Local Government do not start the negotiations at least 3 month before the present contract expire for the next year. They never LEARN ! Phuket is a Tourist destination and should have Life Guards on Duty 365 Days a year.

Posted by MJ on April 22, 2015 20:15


Phukets water record either floating vessels or swimming is dismal cant they see its near in tatters not the time for bean counting time to improve your reputation before it dissolves totally.

Posted by slickmelb on April 22, 2015 20:40


Solution on all Beachproblem;
1. Let the lifeguards rent out sunbeds.
2. Let them also clean the beach.

Clean beaches , No cost for anyone but tourist, lifeguards there all the time.

Orbortor could be suervisor of this.

Posted by Peter on April 22, 2015 20:41


Millions Baht lost as people have many places to spend their money!!!!

Posted by I am pretty far from ok on April 22, 2015 21:03


I was wondering it seams like this annual contract is delayed each year yet the one year contract seams to end around the same time each year.

Posted by mike on April 22, 2015 21:06


This needs to be sorted, it is a major issue. Was recently on Nai Harn and the shore break was kicking up around 1.5metres, with some force. Not an issue for tourists who grew up on beaches but a real danger for swimmers not familiar with surf. It will get worse when monsoon comes. The water was calm around the island the day it got quite rough at Nai Harn. There will be many issues if not fixed, and not just later in the season. We are talking about peoples lives. As a holiday island that promotes a beach holiday not having an efficient life saving force all year round is just embarrassing.

Posted by Davemc60 on April 23, 2015 06:12

Editor Comment:

More than embarrassing . . . it's irresponsible. It shows a total disregard for the people who sustain the Phuket economy, the island's international customers.


More than embarrassing . . . it's irresponsible. It shows a total disregard for the people who sustain the Phuket economy, the island's international customers.

That's what the whole island is doing on daily basis, all from politicians to taxi drivers. So what's new?

Posted by nicky on April 23, 2015 08:59


This same situation happens every year, nothing new. Same old argument, under funded, way under trained and no jet skis or usable rescue craft, vehicles or decent communications systems... I wonder though if there have been more drowning with their absence? At times they seem to provide a false sense of safety, unfortunely...

Posted by Jim MCGowan on April 23, 2015 09:39

Editor Comment:

The lifeguards on Phuket are vastly improved from the days when the towers were seen as a good place to nap. But the beach culture required to have a self-sustaining system of dedicated ''lifesavers'' won't be created or encouraged by annual tendering. A more sensible system has to be adopted. The danger of drowning is far greater without the lifeguards.


Peter, dear,

that how that was during last years on some beaches like Nai Harn, also water sports were controlled by some of lifeguards.

Beach cleaning is a municipal (provincial ) function as the Province receive 1% room tax from all hotels - very direct link of "what tourists are paying". Moreover , the province has been weak on enforcement of registering hotels like hotels - half of them are unregistered (guest house are not counted here), so they could easily double this kind of tax receipt. Moreover , if they still lack money for proper fancy in they can rise the room tax up to 3% - it is a limit allowed by laws, and this extra charge , even if passed on customers , makes no influence on the hotel accommodation market.

Posted by Sue on April 23, 2015 15:04


Just change the date and it's the same story year on year.

This must get tedious, like eating substandard gruel for every meal - day on day - month on month - year on year.


The sound of excessive vomiting

Posted by farang888 on April 23, 2015 22:08


"Lives of swimmers (must not be) ARE CONSTANTLY sacrificed to bureaucratic bungling on Phuket"

Truer words were never spoken - Promises are made and broken.

Abysmal to the n'th degree

Posted by farang888 on April 23, 2015 22:11


This shameful annual bun fight is a local & national disgrace.

I was in the company of 1 'former lifeguard' at Songkran & he stated he probably won't be back after years of this nonsense. It was strongly rumoured that the Navy was going to take over the duty, so he & his colleagues are doubly dispirited & disillusioned on this occasion. They have families to feed so need some sort of job security.

Posted by Logic on April 23, 2015 22:28


A complete life saving service, such as in Australia is completely different. Surf Clubs here benefit from large corporate sponsors, massive national fundraising and licensed clubs on the waterfront. That set up is a long way off here so a department needs to take control. Perhaps a different model could be built up moving forward but in the immediate it needs to be controlled. Australia also benefits from a huge volunteer "army" of lifesavers that patrol key beaches for the 8-9 months of the "swimming" season. Phuket needs numbers all year around. Never an easy answer but one that needs to found. Lives depend on it.

Posted by Davemc60 on April 24, 2015 05:45


Actually I found Nai Harn more pleasant without the the lifeguards. It is so anoying when one is having a sunset swim and the bloody lifeguards insist on blowing there whistles incessantly to clear the water. They should go home and stop annoying people.It is not their right to close the beaches at 6pm. If I want to go swimming after then I will5.59 pm.Pull your head in lifeguards. LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE!

Posted by SHADOWCAT on April 26, 2015 12:21

Thursday September 28, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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