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Phuket's governor says the island is safe for tourists

Phuket Governor Says: 'Please Come, It's Safe'

Monday, May 24, 2010
PHUKET's Governor has written an open letter to be distributed around the world, emphasising that Phuket is a safe destination for tourists.

The letter from Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob conflicts with travel alerts from many countries except Taiwan, which alone categorises Phuket as a safe destination.

Travel warnings have mostly failed to distinguish between the parts of Bangkok and Thai provinces under state of emergency declarations, and parts of Thailand where the risk is low or non-existent for now, and likely to remain that way.

Even when the Bangkok uprising was at its most intense last week, tourists and expats were not being targetted.

The full text of the Governor of Phuket's letter is as follows:

''To Whom lt May Concern,

''On behalf of Phuket Province and the people of Phuket, I would like to take this opportunity to inform to you on our safety and our tourism scenario in Phuket.

''Phuket is located on the Southwest of Thailand, with the distance of nearly 900 km. from Bangkok, where political standoff is still on going. lt is obvious that there is no such chaos in Phuket and all tourists from around the world who are now enjoying their holidays here are in a safe place.

''Still, many direct flights are operating as normal, and more direct flights will be available in consequences of many airlines are avoiding to land at Bangkok. However, passengers who do transit at Suwannabhumi Airport would be safe as the government is implementing maximum security measures to ensure safety for tourists.

''As the governor, I would like to assure you that Phuket, the world famous beach destination, is and will be the safe holiday spot for all tourists. We have taken all necessary actions to ensure safety as our top priority to maintain the worry-free environment to both locals and tourists.

''I would appreciate your efforts in bringing and sharing this important message to both within your organisation and extend it to your business partners who have followed the situation in Phuket. Your assistance means lots to Phuket, the people and the community.

''I took forward to greeting you here soon,

''Wichai Praisa-ngob,
Governor of Phuket''

The Phuket governor's letter is dated May 19. It follows comments from the island's chief of police, who also says that Phuket is safe for tourists.

Leaders of both red and yellow political factions have also said that Phuket is safe for tourists.

Figures released by the Pudong International Airport Frontier Inspectorate showed a 61.2 percent drop in Chinese tourists heading for Thailand from the airport over the last two months, according to one Chinese news outlet.

From March 14 to May 20, a total of 20,980 Chinese tourists departed for Thailand from Pudong International Airport, compared to 57,200 from January to early March.

''We have suspended Thai-bound tours since the end of March, except for Phuket Island,'' said Pan Jie, an agent at China Spring Tour.
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Comments

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As we depend on TAT Region 4 (Phuket, Phang-Na and Krabi, it would have been better for marketing to have a join press release signed by the three governors of those provinces and bring in as well TAT Region 4 Director.

Lack of communication between government agencies is one main problem which is plaguing the tourism industry in Thailand.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 24, 2010 13:08

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It would be nice to know what the local authorities are doing to ensure Phuket remains safe for foreigners. The red shirts have vowed to continue the fight, and it appears that the government is giving them little option but to go underground with their battle. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that Phuket is an obvious target for them to hurt the interests of the yellow shirts and the Thai government.

What is being done to ensure red shirts cannot invade the island in large numbers? What is being done to prevent any covert acts of terrorism? What is being done to protect areas where large numbers of foreigners gather? I have not seen any more police or security than usual in Phuket since the Bangkok riots.

Editor: To suddenly become obsessive about security on Phuket after years when nobody has taken advantage of the island's tourist status . . . well, let's not get too frightened out there, shall we? Times Square in New York is as risky as any other place for tourists. There is no sign of tourists or tourist destinations in Thailand being targetted, and no logic in either side of the political debate, or the southern insurgents, suddenly taking leave of their senses. It could have happened a long time ago. Chances are, it will never happen. Why live a life of fear?

Posted by Kelvin on May 25, 2010 10:31

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@Kelvin and Editor: Do not live a life in fear, but prepare. Terrorism is not falling from the sky. There are stages, an attack cycle: target selection, planning, deployment, attack, escape and exploitation. And in this process, there are several points where terrorists expose themselves and can be detected. Especially in planning. Attacks can be dwarfed when they do surveillance. Mostly they are not too good at it and could be spotted, but no one is looking.

The police should think about a possible target selection in Phuket and make access to them harder. Alert the owners/workforce there. For e.g. a car bomb into a parking garage, security checking out heavy suspension, etc.

It would also be a pretty good idea to get the cctv in Patong up and running in no time. Thai police and even the army of security workers should be trained in spotting surveillance behavior - that could be tricky as it is a tourist destination with a lot of looking around, but normally they have a good eye for funny things. Also Thais and expats should heighten their alert to suspicious behavior and there should be a hotline you can call.

Even when a bomb or attack team is being deployed, you still can get to them before they strike, if people are looking and take notice and they know, whom to tell to get a rapid response. As Phuket is an island, getting here with the gear could be made harder...

So yes, something more could be done. 1. Harden access and targets, 2. Counter-Surveillance, 3. Security awareness campaign, 4. Fast response units to hints or threats. (Presumably some of it already in place...).

I also think Phuket would be one of some possible revanche targets. Not only for reds, as the US military forces now visit regularly again. So work is to be done, to keep Phuket safe for Thais and foreigners alike.

Editor: Thanks, Lena, but the potential for a motorcycle bomb anywhere, any time, on the island is obvious. Phuket is considered safe by the US Navy, the governor, the police chief, and the local red and yellow leaders. I even consider it safe! But as everybody knows these days, nowhere can ever be 100 percent safe. Look at the uninvited guests who crashed the President's White House dinner. Look at Times Square. But I for one am not going to cringe in the corner. Londoners during the IRA pub bombings did what people should do now: go about their lives as normal. Phuket is as safe as it can possibly be.

Posted by Lena on May 25, 2010 15:06

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Dear Editor,

No-one is suggesting we live our lives in fear, but I do think it is a little naive to believe that Phuket is safe just because the governor says so, or because nothing bad has ever happened here. It's not about being obsessive or paranoid. It's about being prepared.

Lena makes some excellent suggestions. The local authorities could do a lot worse than launch an "Island Watch" campaign, highlighting the need for all of us to be a little more aware of what is going on around us, particularly in the aftermath of the Bangkok riots and the threats now being made by the red shirts.

It often appears that the strategy employed in Phuket regarding most matters of safety and public security is one of hope rather than active prevention. Tsunami alerts and road safety are two other examples which spring to mind.

Posted by Kelvin on May 26, 2010 14:02

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You are right. As so often. My comment is a little misplaced.

But I would like the police chief and others who it may concern to be reminded, that they can do more, to prevent Bali or London from happening. When the English bravely went on to live their lives, they knew about their excellent security services.

But for the tourist it is safe to say, that Phuket is one of the few better places to holiday in Asia, even so the world media is painting a whole Thailand same same and the repeating - so you do not forget but remember - of civil unrest is changing Thailand image big way.

Posted by Lena on May 26, 2010 14:44


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