PHUKET: The safety and security of Phuket tourists and Phuket residents is a priority at Phuketwan. It would be nice if the Bangkok government made it a priority, too.
This Songkran New Year on Phuket and around the Andaman was, like last new year, overshadowed by mass evacuations.
Memories fade fast. Terror, like pain, is something that people find difficult to recall.
Yet a little over 12 months ago, all of Patong and the population of Phuket's entire holiday west coast was fleeing inland because of a tsunami alert.
It was a chaotic evacuation, followed within the week by a second evacuation. The second tsunami scare was triggered by an earthquake with its epicentre under Phuket.
And this week, right on cue, the Phuket region marked the first anniversary of those evacuations with a new evacuation, the mass rescue of more than 400 stranded tourists by the Royal Thai Navy.
So what has been done to correct the problems that became evident during last year's evacuations?
Phuket's 19 beachside tsunami warning towers sound the alarm with only one note. There is no different note to sound when the tsunami alarm ends.
The warnings come in five languages, yet not Russian or Burmese, the languages spoken by many on Phuket and around the Andaman these days.
Have the worn-out blue and white tsunami hazard zone signs been replaced? Phuket is, after all, still in a tsunami hazard zone.
Back in 2004, the December 26 tsunami did kill 5400 people, approximately half of them tourists, in Thailand's biggest natural disaster.
So what has been done to correct all of the flaws in the tsunami warning system, the problems that became evident one year ago?
We asked the Director of Phuket's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Sant Jantawong. He responded: ''We have made Bangkok aware of all the issues. We are still awaiting a response.''
This week, the warship Pattani sailed to a storm-battered island off Phuket to rescue more than 400 tourists and the crews of more than a dozen dive and day-trip boats.
The ''captains'' of these vessels had either put to sea deliberately ignoring the fact that experts had been forecasting a dangerous storm was on the way, or they just didn't bother to check the weather forecast.
Either way, they were derelict in their duty to safeguard passengers' safety.
In this new year's mass evacuation, the anguish of some rescued passengers was quickly replaced by anger at having their lives needlessly put at risk.
There is no officially appointed authority to prevent the ''captains'' of tourist vessels from sailing into dangerous storms, regardless of warnings. Thailand must now create one.
Somsak Phurisrisak was formally appointed Thailand's new Minister of Tourism and Sports on April 9.
''After familiarising himself with the ongoing ministry activities, Mr Somsak indicated that he would make visitor safety and security a primary focus of attention,'' says the media release announcing his appointment.
Phuketwan congratulates Mr Somsak and welcomes quick action on both these issues. Happy New Year.