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Was the Phuket airport invasion the second biggest story of the decade?

Phuket's Top 10 News Items of the Decade

Sunday, December 20, 2009
Photo Album Above: Top 10 of the Decade

WHAT are the top 10 news stories of the decade on Phuket and around the Andaman region?

There have been terrible murders, assassinations, shootouts, tales of corruption, love gone wrong, mysteries. Every place has those.

These 10 are the memorable events we have chosen, perhaps reflecting most strongly the exceptionally newsworthy period that seems to have begun on December 26, 2004.

Given the timing of the arrival of the tsunami, it's worth remembering that the decade does not officially finish for another few days yet . . .

1. December 2004: The Big Wave

NEWS story of the decade for Phuket, Thailand and the entire Indian Ocean region. Massive natural disaster in which 220,000 people died, followed by an unprecedented outpouring of generosity, and in Thailand by the remarkable work done by volunteers in recovering bodies and rebuilding, plus the equally memorable forensic achievement of identifying thousands of nameless victims from 40 countries.

2. August 2008: Phuket Airport Invasion

YELLOW shirt protesters on Phuket staged a three-day warm-up airport invasion for one that was to change the government of the entire country a few weeks later, when the idea was repeated at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. The worst moment of the past 10 years for Phuket's tourism industry. The island, the region and the nation have yet to recover.

3. Until January 2009: Boatpeople Pushbacks

AN ANDAMAN horror story: hundreds of would-be refugees from Burma and Bangladesh drowned after Thai paramilitary towed them out to sea and left them to drift in powerless vessels. They were first kept captive on the now-notorious Koh Sai Dang, off Ranong province, and sometimes photographed by tourists as they visited the region's beaches.

4. September 2007: One-Two-Go Crash

A BUDGET airline holiday flight crash-lands at Phuket airport, killing 90 and injuring and burning 40 survivors. The airline is temporarily grounded while safety concerns are addressed. Thai authorities only release a summary of official findings, which blame pilot error rather than the ''windshear'' weather.

5. 2003: Retention of the 80 Metre Limit

TRIAL regulations that prohibit building above 80 metres on the island are extended, giving Phuket its green-top look. It's the largest victory for environmentalists in the decade. Property owners want the limit raised to 100 metres or removed. The Big Buddha is one lawful exception. Others developments clearly breach the law.

6. March, 2009: Dive Boat Disaster

LIVEABOARD Dive Asia 1 is capsized by a Phuket squall and seven people drown, six tourists and the Thai cook. A lengthy police investigation produces a one-page report. Many questions about the disaster remain unanswered, including why the 23 survivors were left to drift for hours. Phuket's dive industry has yet to recover.

7. January, 2009: Arrival of the Jellyfish

PATONG and other popular Phuket beaches are invaded by jellyfish. The species is not particularly toxic but the bodies on the beaches are a tourism turn-off, and a worrying sign that the region is losing the balance with nature. Coastal development and overfishing have clearly destroyed the breeding grounds for turtles, the jellyfish predators.

8. 2008-2009: Phuket Road Toll Drops

PHUKET'S yearly road toll, which early in the decade topped 200, is reduced to 135 in 2008 by better road design, headlamps on motorcycles, police checkpoints, and education. Thousands of injuries continue to cost the community dearly. The same attention is not paid to beach safety and needless drownings.

9. 2008-2009: Island Resistance Movement

AS PHUKET becomes an urban mass, villagers on nearby islands see the results of unrestrained development and decide to protect their turf. Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob toughens environmental protection. The villagers, 21st century resistance fighters, are engaged in a battle to save their way of life, choosing continuity over cash

10. September, 2009: Jet-Ski JJ Becomes a Star

TELEVISED footage of an alleged jet-ski extortionist in action comes as diplomats complain about a surge of rip-offs on Phuket, and the upshot is a world-first jet-ski insurance scheme. Will it work? Wait and see. Meanwhile, tourists continue to complain about other Phuket pitfalls, especially excessive tuk-tuk fares.

Riddle of the Decade

WHAT Killed two women tourists, one from the US and the other from Norway, who happened to be staying in adjoining rooms at Laleena Guesthouse on Ph Phi in May, 2009? The results of a second autopsy are still being collated in Norway. To have two young lives snuffed out without explanation is unacceptable. The Thai investigation? Less than adequate.

Most Unforgettable Story

THE ONE we couldn't overlook: The suffocation of 54 Burmese in the back of an airless refrigerated container truck on the road south to Phuket from Ranong in 2008. We photographed the 50-plus young survivors, who only wanted a better life. Images of the inside of the container truck will haunt us forever. It was a tragedy caused by the greed of human traffickers, not by nature.

Headlines We'd Like to See

.AIRASIA takes over Phuket tuk-tuks, praises the choice of red, and promises sensible budget fares;

..US NAVY says, 'When we're through with the USS Ronald Reagan, Phuket can turn her into an artificial reef';

..PATONG police promote sensible round-the-clock opening hours and offer courses in sophisticated bar management.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Some of the crimes this year on Phuket have been extraordinary, not really the kind of crimes that happen eveywhere. There was the Nana Plaza shootout, and the video that captured the alleged killer firing his gun. An amazing piece of evidence.

How about the shooting of the Canadian real estate developer, outside his home in Patong? And the killer said he had been hired to do another farang hit? Oh, you lucky, lucky expat!

Then there was the Japanese man, murdered and burned in his ''funeral pyre'' car by an angry Thai. Treat your wives well, please, gentlemen.

And the partying Thai who came back with a gun and killed three of his friends in Chalong, with bullets to the head? Strange thing, friendship.

Also mystifying is the body of the woman in the wetsuit at Paradise beach, and the tattooed expat who washed up at Nai Harn, both still unidentified.

How can people not be missed like that?

And before I wear out my welcome, who could forget the 'Beer Mat Bandit' and Simon Burrowes, who both pleaded guilty to minor charges to escape this pleasant holiday island.

Only on Phuket!

Posted by Angelfire on December 20, 2009 13:34


More headlines we want to see:

"Skytrain Phuket opens second line with link to Khaolak, Phang-Nga"

"New motorbikes only electric!"

"Whole year no Aussi dead"

"Lifeguard and Sea-Rescue Academy Phuket praised for less drownings in all Thailand"

"Vegetarian Festival without rain!"

"Floating Hotel at Kathu Beach big success."

"Expats allowed to vote locally."

"Phuket soccer team wins a trophy."

"Thai PM gets Nobel peace prize."


Posted by Lena on December 21, 2009 05:44


"Realtor apologizes for marketing, 'Summer Season', omitting caveat on killer rip tides. "

Posted by Christy on December 21, 2009 09:38

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