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A mother and a sister waited for the tragic news that came today

Phuket's Fourth Beach Drowning in Four Days Sparks Action

Monday, June 24, 2013
PHUKET: A young man's body was found off a Phuket beach today as he became the fourth swimmer to drown on the holiday island in just four days.

Phuket authorities were meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket City this morning at a gathering chaired by Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud to discuss the needless deaths.

Lifeguards rescued more than 100 people from Phuket's famous west coast beaches last week and today a spokeswoman asked for volunteers to help to stop the drownings.

In the latest tragedy, family and friends of Peerapon Nunark, 19, kept a vigil until darkness fell over Layan beach last night.

Today their hopes were dashed when the young man's body was found and recovered offshore of Phuket's west coast, where tourists from India, Belgium and Russia have also drowned since Thursday.

The succession of tragedies is likely to bring to a head continuing concerns that Phuket fails to do enough to prevent drownings in the dangerous onset of the monsoon season.

The deaths are certain to be raised when ambassadors from Europe, Australia and probably China meet with Thailand's Minister for Tourism and Sport in Bangkok on Friday.

The faces of Khun Peerapon's family and friends were filled with anguish as they stood hoping for his safe return at Layan beach yesterday.

His mother, Wasana Janpen, said: ''Peerapon was with five friends at the family picnic. We watched him wave for help. Then he was gone.''

She could not explain why the swimmers had chosen to ignore red flags and warnings from lifeguards. It's a common problem that occurs when people reach Phuket's beaches, determined to swim.

Water safety experts say that lifeguards are only one part of Phuket's needs to protect swimmers at this time of the year.

The four drownings in four days have been accompanied by other drownings and the death of one Chinese tourist from a speedboat propeller since May.

Eight tourists drowned on Phuket's beaches between mid-May and mid-July last year but this year it was again left just to the lifeguards to protect swimmers.

The water safety experts have called for warnings at Phuket airport, on arrival at resorts and guesthouses, and on the beaches for those who still plan on risking their lives.

Phuket's Shocking Monsoon Marine Death Toll 2013


June 24 Phuket authorities react by holding a crisis meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

June 23 A young Phuket man becomes drowning number four in four days when he disappears beneath the surf at Layan beach.

June 22 Indian tourist Ramesh Chand Singhal, 49, goes into the surf at Kata with a bodyboard and drowns.

June 20 Two drownings within one hour as Belgian Laurent Jacques Leopold Wanter, 42, drowns at Laem Singh beach and Aleksande Poleshchenko, 29, drowns soon after at Patong beach.

June 19 Chinese tourist Chen Peng, 36, dies afterv being struck by a speedboat propeller in the water at scenic Pileh Bay, near Phi Phi.

June 18 Chinese tourist Ran Li, 23, drowns on a day-trip outing to Racha island.

June 14 Eighteen European envoys meet on Phuket and request more effort to improve marine and beach safety.

May 29 Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu makes a strong public plea on Phuket for more warnings - at the airport, at resorts and at beaches - to save more lives.

May 28 A Young Chinese tourist drowns on a day-trip from Phuket to Pai island.

May 21 British tourist Jeremy Thomas O'Neill, 37, is found dead on Patong beach about 6am. It is believed he may have misjudged the strength of the waves in darkness.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I believe the most important thing to do is to provide potential tourists with accurate information about dangers relating to Phuket beaches BEFORE they purchase their trips.

When they arrive on Phuket, it's too late. Imagine the disappointment of an anticipated beach holiday, only be told after a 10+ hrs flight that it's not safe to swim on the beaches.

Promoting the numerous and extensive pool facilities many midrange and upscale hotels have would be the perfect alternative in low season.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 24, 2013 13:00

Editor Comment:

What you are asking is for Phuket to become the first tourist destination in the world to try to prevent visitors from coming. That's plainly unlikely and an unreasonable suggestion. Preventative action in destinations that have problems of one kind or another rightly begins once the aircraft has landed. Until then, it's up to the individual traveller to look at all pros and cons, as well as the prices.

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I am not sure about the sea conditions comparing Queensland to Phuket but you do not read so many drowning there and certainly in the North, Cairns etc they have monsoons. Therefore can the Thai authorities do some research or ask the Queensland government for advice?

Posted by Donating Farang on June 24, 2013 13:28

Editor Comment:

You'll find box jellyfish and other marine stingers keep people out of Queensland's northern waters. The Gold Coast etc are well patrolled. Australian lifeguards already help on Phuket and have demonstrated how visitors to Queensland are warned from the time they arrive at airports.

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Where did I write "prevent" ? I'm advocating objective warnings, not a virtual travel ban like China imposed on Philippines recently.

Tourists should be warned and it's common practice, not a world first as you suggest.

Grab a travel brochure of any major European agency and you'll see that every destination has highlighted positives and negatives.

It should read

"In the Monsoon season, which generally runs from May to end of July, Phuket beaches often have dangerous surf and riptides, making swimming hazardous. Please heed the warning flags on the beaches and if possible, utilize the pool facilities at your hotel instead"

How is that unlikely or unreasonable ?

I say provide information BEFORE decision to travel has been made. You feel it's better to give it when tourists have already arrived.

Other than for fear of lost revenue, why should this information not be given voluntarily to tourists before they book a trip ?

It would certainly reduce the number of tourists who expect a beach holiday, only to discover they can't swim in the ocean and due to this disappointment, decide to ignore the warnings with far too often deadly consequences.

The Life Guards repeatedly tell stories about tourists ignoring their warnings and providing the information before a trip is booked would be the most effective way to prevent it.

In my opinion, of course.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 24, 2013 13:36

Editor Comment:

It would be unreasonable to expect people who derive their income from Phuket tourism to warn anyone about anything. That gives rival destinations that aren't so revealing about these kinds of problems an unfair advantage. You want to send people to destinations that are less safe? When there's a universal law requiring disclosures, sure. Until then it's unfair. Individuals are expected to do their own research. Protecting them becomes Phuket's responsibility once they're on the island. The most effective way to handle the problem: protect the tourists so there's no need for overseas warnings.

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Some people will say that until a Thai person dies drowning, authorities will not take actions. We wish the first drowning "sparked actions".

Posted by danny on June 24, 2013 14:39

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Danny, plenty of Thai's have drowned, the trouble with brochures people get it wrong, Thai Mike the surf season runs until the end of October and big swells will occur in December, the local government has to provide trained lifesavers at beaches, it can't do much more than that, common sense then has to come into it.

Posted by coxo on June 24, 2013 20:01

Editor Comment:

The local authorities can do a lot more than that, and they need to do a lot more, as we've explained. Warnings must come at the airport and on check-in.

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Prohibit swimming from May - November.

Posted by Harald on June 24, 2013 21:59

Editor Comment:

A bit severe, perhaps? There are many safe swimming days between May and November. Telling people how to know which days are safe and which days are not might save a lot of unnecessary harsh economic pain.

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My deepest sympathies to all these poor poor families affected .The inaction of those tasked with preventing things like this happening is always sighted yet after all this time this carnage is still going on.Like most things here it's not a problem until it looks like a possible loss of face or it may affect the tourist buck pouring into the island how many times has this paper alone highlighted this problem and given practical solutions only to be ignored

Posted by Scunner on June 24, 2013 23:16

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If the danger of swimming in ocean beaches in the surf has not been taught to you for years and years you WILL not learn a thing from a brochure at the airport on arrival, common sense has to prevail at some stage.

Posted by coxo on June 25, 2013 06:56

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Sorry Ed, but I thought ThaiMike's brochure warning was well worded and would simply alert tourists to the dangers during the monsoon season. Tourists do go to tropical destinations to enjoy the beach but this is not possible at this time of the year. And perhaps the change to 'green season' is really misleading tourists

Posted by Damien on June 25, 2013 10:08

Editor Comment:

Brochures are no value because few people read them unless they are looking to go on a specific tour. Warnings must be direct - a card in the passport at the airport, an in-person conversation at reception on check-in, and a verbal warning on the beach.

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I talked to a guest and he was complaining about the beach warnings. I told him it's extremely important he heed the warnings because rip tides are deceptive and unseen. He told me it's not a problem if he didn't go in too deep, just waist high to enjoy the waves. I think this is why many tourists ignore warnings. They think if they just go to relatively shallow waters they'll be fine. We need to make the warnings clearer, rip tides literally has the potential to rip you out into the sea the moment you step into the waters. I've seen grown man lose their balance in ankle-deep waters, so it's not even worth it to take the risk at all.

Posted by May on June 25, 2013 10:19

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I passed through Karon roundabout at midday yesterday & there were people cavorting in the surf at some of the points where rip tides are most common, despite plentiful red flags along the beach. What can you do about those so foolish as to ignore warnings.

However at dusk, I got a new slant on the problem. I saw at least 3 Thais along Karon & Kata beaches loading surf boards (at least 10 each) onto motor cycle sidecars. What message is that sending to tourists?

These guys are actively encouraging tourists to risk their lives in the same surf that others are trying to warn them to avoid. It is time the police got involved in this particular issue.

Posted by Logic on June 25, 2013 11:45

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Logic, the chances of drowning on a surf board are slim, the board is attached to your leg, it floats you, most who use a board are experienced in the water, a board is only good when there are waves, not much fun on a flat ocean. Its this lack of understanding of the ocean as shown by Logic where problems do eventuate.

Posted by coxo on June 25, 2013 12:19

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" Brochures are no value because few people read them unless they are looking to go on a specific tour"

I disagree. With the increase in mass tourism we get more and more travelers on package tours instead of independent travelers. Chinese in particular are known to be almost exclusively on package tours and they are officially acknowledged to be the largest nationality group visiting Phuket.

The number of charter flights by large companies like TUI or Thomas Cook, among others, confirms this. Many travel agents also use scheduled flights but sell the seats as a part of a package tour. Common practice for long haul destinations.

These travelers ARE looking for a specific tour/trip abroad and very much DO read the brochures published by their local travel agents, either online or in print and then book their trips through these agents.

I'm not saying Phuket authorities are responsible for what foreign travel agents choose to tell or not to tell their customers but this information should definitely be passed on to the travel agents so they could make informed decisions about what to warn their customers about and what not.

Calling the Monsoon season Green season and not releasing any official figures of drownings on Phuket beaches comes off as an attempt to try to hide the dangers rather than working in the best interests of tourist safety.


On numerous occasions even PW has reported the increase of mass tourism and the decrease of independent travelers. I find it odd that PW would now just suddenly dismiss their significance and existence.

Package tours are sold by travel agents. Their brochures contain both positives and negatives of any given destination they sell.

Why PW resists or dismisses the inclusion of the seasonal dangers of Phuket beaches in them as useless baffles me.

If I'm missing something here, please let me know.

I stand by my opinion that the most important thing is letting the potential visitors know the seasonal dangers BEFORE they decide to book their trip to Phuket or any other destination offered to them by a travel agent.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 25, 2013 12:56

Editor Comment:

Oh, you're still talking about brochures to discourage people from coming to Phuket. That's just not on.
Brochures explaining the dangers once people reach Phuket are lost among scores of other brochures. It's not acceptable to say when drownings continue ''Oh, they didn't read the brochures.'' Direct warnings after arrival are the answer.

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I can only conclude that you either did not read my comment/s or I failed to express myself clearly enough.

Please allow me one more try.

I'm talking about Travel Brochures - those that virtually all travel agents around the world publish both in print and online. You might also call them Travel Catalogues. They contain details about every destination these agents offer and can contain anything from 30 to over 100 destinations. Usually 2 to 4 pages cover one destination.

Maybe Flight Centre used to be so dominant that such marketing strategies do not exist in Australia but they are very, very common in Europe.

These are what package tourists browse and read back home when they are looking for their next holiday trip.

You are putting words in my mouth.

Nowhere did I say someone should print separate brochures abroad to discourage people from coming to Phuket.

I say it again - these Travel Brochures/Catalogues published by reputable travel agents abroad all include positives and negatives about every destination they market.

It is in this segment I would like to see the warning about seasonal dangers on Phuket beaches to be included. Many already include warnings about Tuk-Tuks and Jetskis (check out the Jetstar inflight magazine for example).

It has nothing to do with "trying to discourage people from coming to Phuket" as you try to portray it but rather shows due diligence and care about tourists safety by providing them with objective information BEFORE they make their decision on where to travel.

The fact that Phuket authorities refuse to publish any official numbers of deaths by either drowning or traffic accidents leaves me with the strong impression that their interest is in protecting the flow of money rather than the safety of the tourists.

Why you feel travel agents should not include this warning in their brochures among other Phuket dangers is beyond me.

Does this mean you would like to see travel agents and airlines remove their warnings about Tuk-Tuks and taxis too since you wrote

" to discourage people from coming to Phuket. That's just not on "

Posted by ThaiMike on June 25, 2013 13:38

Editor Comment:

What travel agents do is their own business and local authorities have no control over that. Nor, i suspect, do you. The decision on where people holiday is entirely up to individuals.

Once people arrive on Phuket, the Phuket community has a collective responsibility to protect them. Our recommendation is that Phuket people put their energy into protection on the ground. They have no control over other aspects of tourism.

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Agreed with that, all along.

What Phuket authorities DO have full control over though is the decision not to release drowning or traffic fatalities.

Solving a problem starts from identifying it and it's magnitude. Without those numbers our only source of information is the independent media like PW and the not-so-independent others.

That's just not right.

Thank you for keeping us informed.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 25, 2013 14:26

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"The succession of tragedies is likely to bring to a head continuing concerns that Phuket fails to do enough to prevent drownings in the dangerous onset of the monsoon season."

It's noble that you continue to report this, and despicable that the locals and their appointed leaders have and never will do anything significant to stem the deaths by drowning.

It's been years now and absolutely no change. Keep reporting, it's basically the only action taking place.

Posted by JingJing on June 25, 2013 16:07

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To say the locals are doing nothing is crazy, eight years ago there were no life savers at all on any beach in Phuket, they now have them, they are trained by Aus life savers, it is the ignorance and lack of education from tourists who continue to ignore red flagged beach closed signs,they should be educated on the danger of the ocean in there homelands as we are in Australia, no Aussie comes here expecting to be educated on the danger of the ocean by a Thai, the danger will never be learnt from reading a paragraph in a brochure on arrival.

Posted by coxo on June 25, 2013 17:21

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discussion, warnings is good I suppose but short of closing the beaches and preventative patrols, very hard to stop determined tourists going for a dip in dangerous conditions.
A few years back I think three members of a family of four residents drowned on a patrolled beach on the east coast of Mornington peninsular Victoria Australia.My family and I had been swimming in the same area not 1 hr before and the tide rip had moved. The life guards were on patrol in RIBs and were moving swim flag limits.
Cairns FNQ BTW is inside the Great Barrier reef and does not get the big dumper surf waves as not much of a fetch. They also have stinger net enclosed swimming areas deployed but only in stinger season.
No easy answer methinks..can't get tourists to wear motorbike helmets even if enforced..tough one.

Posted by david on June 25, 2013 17:21

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I think closing the beaches is over the top. Give more warnings would be the best I think. Maybe even a cordon that runs all along the sea front with warning signs on it would be more preventative. Sure people can still cross over or under it, but that is the choice of the individual.

Posted by Matt on June 25, 2013 19:16

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@ Coxo: Your suggestion I don't know the sea is absurd. I have worked on the sea in a professional capacity for 41 years & understand all the dangers. I have lived in Phuket for 18 years & seen more people pulled out on Karon and Kata beaches than I would like to remember, sometimes as lucky survivors & sometimes not. I am also an advanced SCUBA diver with additional life saving qualifications.

My point is that these Thais are making money by encouraging people with no proven skills to go into the surf. As with snorkeling, if you don't know what you are doing, either take proper lessons or don't do it.

Posted by Logic on June 26, 2013 06:46

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Surfing conditions have been pretty healthy the last few weeks, and it has been a good workout. With these conditions unfortunately come drownings. Unless you are a fairly strong swimmer, one has no business entering the water at any west coast beach. Except perhaps extreme south end of Patong Beach ..... and I would classify a fairly strong swimmer as someone who can cover half a km non-stop in 10 mins.

Posted by Geoff on June 26, 2013 10:30


Sunday October 25, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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