PHUKET: One indication that action to protect Phuket's future now rests in the hands of Bangkok decision-makers came this week when the issue of jet-skis was raised at the three-monthly meeting of honorary consuls with Phuket community leaders.
Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Chief of Phuket's Marine Office 5, put forward a plan for controlling Phuket's jet-skis at Thursday's meeting, and complete, unexpected silence followed.
At any of the previous meetings, honorary consuls would have been quick to question the plan. Essentially, Khun Phuripat admits that the number of illegal jet-skis on Phuket has risen to 70 (it was 27 two years ago), which means there are now 289 jet-skis on Phuket.
Khun Phuripat's efforts to stem the increase have failed. Earlier in the week, Phuketwan photographed jet-skis operating at Surin, a beach that is not supposed to have any jet-skis.
Khun Phuripat, who has a difficult-to-find office on Phuket's east coast, near the deep sea port, told the meeting he had never had a single complaint about jet-skis.
Yet Phuket Police Commander Major General Pekad told the gathering that police had been called in to mediate 40 cases involving jet-ski disputes on the west coast this year. Patong is the heartland of scams and jet-ski abuses.
Khun Phuripat's plan for zoning has virtually no hope of working. The reason? Compromises of the kind that he proposes yet again are the reason that Phuket has a jet-ski scam problem, thousands of tuk-tuks and taxis charging excessive fares, and pathetic public transport.
As with every tourism rip-off and scam on Phuket, when it comes to jet-skis, authorities have always had the choice: compromise, or enforce existing laws.
Without fail, compromise has been the choice, every time. Yet as everyone knows, compromise down the years has simply allowed the jet-ski operators of Patong to do as they please.
Nothing will really change under Khun Phuripat's zoning proposal.
A better idea comes from David Field, the lifesaving expert who comes to Phuket each year to train locals. Mr Field, who has spent far more time on Patong beach than Khun Phuripat, is now training lifeguards on the Philippines island of Boracay - one of Phuket's regional rival destinations.
''To hire a jet-ski on Boracay, you accept the touts offer and you are taken offshore by boat to a large pontoon. Then they ride in a designated area away from shore, away from divers and swimmers. No rip-off scams operate here.
''It's the same with parasailing. Guests are taken offshore two-to-three kilometres by speedboat and they take turns floating around, then return to shore.
''They look beautiful floating around way out to sea. Banana Boats are very popular and well operated and controlled.
There is no smoking on the beach - 500 pesos is the fine and it is enforced,with no dogs, no drinking on the beach. No touts are allowed on the beach. They get you instead on the footpath beyond.''
Phuketwan believes a Boracay approach to jet-skis, and to law enforcement, and to keeping beaches clear of illegal businesses, is precisely what Phuket needs.
We urge the decision-makers in Bangkok and the envoys who are offering them suggestions for saving Phuket for future generations to look closely at the Boracay concept.
Weeding out the good jet-ski operators from the scammers is another good idea. We suggest Khun Phuripat moves his office from Phuket's deep sea port to Patong and begins this process straight away.