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Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy PM of Thailand, about to shake hands

Phuket Prepares for Just One Kind of Disaster

Friday, August 21, 2009
Run! Tsunami Practice Photo Album Above

I AM about to shake the hand of the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand. It will be a pleasure because Suthep Thaugsuban is, from all that I have seen and heard, an extremely likeable man.

Oh yes. And perhaps it's because I am an expat in shorts and a holiday shirt that not one of the scores of people in uniform at today's Patong tsunami practice drill has bothered to check what's in my backpack.

It's black and it's large. Because I am a photojournalist, it is mostly filled with camera lenses.

But for all the scores of police and security people around me know, my backpack could just as easily contain one of those unmentionable items.

A suicide bomb.

Now, I have to say it is delightful to be at an event such as a tsunami practice drill (which went perfectly, by the way) in a hospitable place such as Thailand, and to be enjoying the Patong sunshine.

But being a photojournalist who is perhaps far too serious for my own good, I did happen to let myself think ''What if . . . ''

And here I was, shaking the Deputy PM's hand . . . possibly with a bomb on my back. Or a grenade. Or a gun.

Although I didn't qualify for a handshake last time, I also managed to move within a few feet of Khun Suthep when he visited Phuket earlier this year. And I was wearing my backpack then, too.

Of course, tall, rangy expats are not expected to carry bombs. Why would we? How could we?

Yet as the security people in Jakarta discovered recently, even a peace-loving florist at a large upmarket city hotel can be a killer, ready to die for a cause.

The florist, incidentally, had been working at the hotel for three years before the opportunity came for him to strike.

The same terror cell is now accused of plotting an assassination attempt on the Indonesian President. And if today's news is accurate, US President Barack Obama would have become a target for their snipers when he visited Indonesia.

In Patong, when the sun is shining and everything is going well, it's easy to look on at a tsunami practice drill and wonder what could ever go that wrong again.

But isn't security and preparedness what the tsunami practice is all about? Look at Bali, where the bombers came calling not once, but twice.

If it happened once, it can happen again. That's why people were there today, at the tsunami drill, to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

That's why the Deputy PM was there. That's why I was there.

The tsunami that struck the Andaman coast in 2004 was a natural disaster, unlike the suicide bomb disasters in Bali and Jakarta, which were man-made.

But surely a man-made disaster couldn't happen here, on Phuket. Here, in Thailand. It couldn't. Could it?

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Comments have been disabled for this article.


I am so glad everybody had such a good drill. I in Cherng Talay heard no warnings. no sirens, no nothing. This just goes to show how inefficient the whole stupid system is.

I had five friends of mine waiting for the dril and exercise, then bugger all happened. If anything hits Laguna, CherngTalay we are surfing or dead. Useless unless you live in Patong. No cheers from me at all.

You are the weakest link .... goodbye.

Posted by Graham on August 21, 2009 21:06


Now... our office is in Karon and was not hit by the 2004 tsunami, but only 4 minutes walk to the beach. This morning I was in the office and I did not see or hear anything. I did not hear a siren, did not know anything had happened at all.

Posted by Jamie on August 21, 2009 23:19

Sunday October 17, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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