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German Ambassador Dr Schumacher with the Governor in November

Phuket Summit: Governor to Meet Expat Consuls

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Phuketwan Updating News, Analysis

A BREAK-THROUGH meeting is set for Monday between Phuket's Governor and the tourists' frontline guardian force: the honorary consuls of 16 countries.

The innovative get-together, set to be repeated four times a year, is seen as an ideal way to talk about and tackle problems relating to Phuket tourism.

Never before has there been an opportunity for the people who know most about Phuket's problems to speak so freely with the man in charge.

Countries represented at the meeting bring the vast majority of international tourists to Phuket.

Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob revealed that Monday's meeting will go ahead when he met today with Germany's former Minister of Economics and Technologies, Michael Glos.

He also announced that from now on, the Foreign Ministry offices that opened at Phuket City's Provincial Hall in October will also become a base for the use of the island's consular community.

Most beneficial of all, though, will be the break-through concept of regular meetings four times a year between the Governor and the honorary consuls.

The idea for the regular meetings sprang from a visit by German Ambassador Dr Hanns H. Schumacher to the Governor in November.

Germany's Honorary Consul, Dirk Naumann, who wrote a formal letter to the Governor on behalf of all honorary consuls, said today: ''These meetings will be an opportunity for us to express our concerns, and importantly, to listen to the concerns of the Governor.

''We are also hoping to hear his views on the future development of the island.''

To avoid the meetings being swamped with issues by all 16 honorary consuls, most of the expat representatives are hoping for items to be prioritised in a formal agenda.

With four gatherings each year, all key issues should be on the table within 12 months.

The meetings also represent an opportunity for the views of the expat community to be accurately reported for the first time by the broader Thai media, something that seldom happens at present.

Most issues of concern to expats are freely discussed in English in online news and chat sites, but generally the Thai press seldom reports any negative feedback.

Editors at some of the country's national newspapers have even told expat contributors that they will only cover positive aspects of tourism - a flawed outlook that inevitably leads to bad practices becoming entrenched, and problems going unsolved.

The end result: deceived, unhappy tourists.

British Honorary consul Martin Carpenter said today: ''The news is extremely encouraging and we very much look forward to our first discussions.''

Another honorary consul said: ''This meeting is a great chance for a free and frank exchange of views about all kinds of topics. It will be the first time for the international community to speak as one.''

Represented at Monday's precedent-setting gathering, with numbers of citizens passing through Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008 in brackets, will be:

Germany (449,942), Australia (471,472), Britain (668,765), Austria (69,038), the Czech Republic (n/a), Denmark (105,068), Norway (84,296), Estonia (n/a), Finland (85,329), France (321,233), Ireland (59,441), Italy (126,947), Korea (607,071) and Sweden (206,715).

Australia, Sweden and Britain are thought to supply most tourists to Phuket. Some of the honorary consuls are expats, others are Thais.

One issue known to be of great concern to all honorary consuls is the need for every incident involving expats citizens to be reported immediately to the respective diplomats by police or Immigration officers.

In some cases, decisions about whether incidents should or should not be reported are left to relatively junior officials.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Nice job, Herr Naumann.

Here is my agenda:

1. Open up transport.
How To: Only metered aircond. Taxilimos (like Bangkok), baht bus lines all over the island with regular schedule, tuktuk in tourist hotspots as fun drive (cheap). Airport open to everyone, after pickup of guests taxi pays 100 Baht. Queue outside the airport. Hotel Limos pay 150 Baht. Just make the airport parking space a proper place, no chaos tolerated any more.

2. Safety at the beaches
How-To: for example: CCTV on high points at known dangerous beaches, can look into waves from above, CCTV guys coordinate rescue. Additional a automatic video screening analyzer should be helpful, movement pattern recognition of swimmers in distress, current warnings etc. pp., Jetski rescue teams on standby, could be the beach boys, who get paid per rescue like medics.

3. Safety on the island
How To: Make realtime statistics, searchable for who, when, where and why accidents, crime, scam happen and root out the cause as fast as possible. E.g. address the public, educate, control, crackdown etc. Transparency is the natural predator of corruption.

4. Prosperous future for Phuket
Make a vision. Aim high. Go green.

Posted by Lena on February 4, 2010 17:52

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Best laugh I've had all week Lena - same old,same old. Why not come up with some realistic agenda points, like who's turn to provide the cookies?

Posted by Mister Ree on February 4, 2010 19:28

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'the people who know most about phuket's problems' ???????

debatable whether they know most about problems facing those from their respective countries - laughable as phrased.

Editor: Was there some point, or are you just laughing madly again, farangba?

Posted by farangba on February 5, 2010 07:08

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i was wondering on what basis foreign counsels 'know most about phuket's problems' seems a very wide statement

their interest and knowledge (where 'most' knowledgeable) is likely confined to those problems affecting visitors from their respective countries

or am i confusing phuket as a destination for foreigners only and not a place with people of its own?

Editor: Thanks for getting back. Almost half the honorary consuls are Thais with an understanding and appreciation of Phuket that perhaps goes beyond that of the expat resident honorary consuls, although some of the expat consuls have been on Phuket for decades. Because Phuket is a special case, a tourism cash cow for Thailand, and because the honorary consuls have direct, independent links to embassies in Bangkok, there is no group with a more complete understanding of Phuket's problems. The Thai media seldom reports tourism concerns accurately, so locals are not necessarily well-informed. This is the group with the most profound knowledge of Phuket's problems.

Posted by farangba on February 5, 2010 07:44

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"Tourism Cash Cow for Thailand"!

Might be, but do you know that the annual tourism revenue is only 6% of the Thai GNP? Manufacturing, produce, export etc. are far bigger money-makers.

Maybe that's why they don't give a hoot about the scams and the rip-offs, not to mention the mysterious "farang suicides" at many destinations. Tourism income is not that important.

Editor: If Thailand doesn't want the income, which could easily double with a little effort, then I'm sure Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia will happily take over.

Posted by Samlee on February 5, 2010 17:23

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Oh well, let them have a chat and see what happens but Phuket is certainly a breeze compared to Pattaya:
http://www.pattayadailynews.com/en/2010/02/01/thai-woman-shot-after-car-chase-in-pattaya/
Ah, the Wild Wild East Asia!

Posted by BOM on February 5, 2010 20:24


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