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Chinese snorkellers off Phi Phi: improved safety standards demanded

No More Chinese Tourists for Phuket if Day-Trip Deaths Continue, Tourism Chief Told

Friday, December 25, 2015
PHUKET: Chinese tourists will be stopped from coming to Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga unless better safety standards are introduced to cut the number of deaths on snorkelling and diving trips, Andaman tourism authorities were warned yesterday.

According to Chinese consular officials, 28 Chinese have died on Phuket this year - 18 on snorkelling and diving trips. The alarming number of deaths has occurred because of lack of proper instruction in how to safely use equipment and the lack of proper supervision.

The call for better safety was made yesterday at a private meeting between Chinese consulate officials and the Director of Tourism and Sport for Phuket, Santi Pawai.

''We will meet with all diving and speedboat tour companies early in the New Year and insist that their instruction and safety standards are improved immediately,'' Khun Santi told Phuketwan.

Chinese tourists visiting Thailand are tipped to rise to eight million next year. Tourism on Phuket and in Phang Nga and Krabi now relies heavily on package tours from China.

Many of the visitors from China have no experience of the sea and are not strong swimmers. On day trips from Phuket, the most deadly destination is Racha island, where inept speedboat crews and guides have failed to prevent tourists from drowning.

While using a snorkel appears easy, for people who are not strong swimmers and have no experience in the sea, preliminary training can be a matter of life and death. People who gulp in water while snorkelling often do not show any obvious signs of distress and drown face-down.

The days when a speedboat crew could relax with distractions while their passengers go snorkelling are over. Scores of deaths have occurred because of the lax approach of boat crews.

European and Australian snorkellers, generally reasonable swimmers, did not require supervision. But the Europeans and Australians are being replaced and the number of Chinese now visiting the Andaman requires speedboat crews and guides to work harder for a living, and to provide real protection.

A young Chinese tourist wearing a facemask drowned on a beach at Koh Lanta in Krabi on December 15.

In one of the most disturbing fatalities this year, Chinese tourist Lin Zhang, 23, was found lifeless at a depth of 11 metres underwater on a diving outing to the Similan islands on November 27.

She was supposed to be diving with four companions, some of whom claimed to have ''dive instructor'' category qualifications.

The tour group instructors went with 19 other less experienced divers, leaving the five to make their own arrangements.

Phuketwan has learned that the young diver's family had her cremated at Takuapa in Phang Nga on December 3.

Compensation of 2.5 million baht was paid to the family - one million baht in insurance, one million baht from a dive tour company and 500,000 baht from a subcontractor.

The details of precisely what went wrong have yet to be made public.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


been a issue a good decade nil done China says the horse has bolted now Phuket decides to close gate with the previous dismal record of doing nothing I suspect this will be just rhetoric if they lose there Chinese tourist market after this final warning well Phuket you got your just deserts and will sulk about it.

Posted by sllickmelb on December 25, 2015 13:12


Problem is, everybody is greedy, want to make money out of the tourists, but are complete reluctant to spend/invest money in tourist safety at Phuket waters.

Posted by Kurt on December 25, 2015 13:14


The Chinese consular members clearly understand the only way of getting things done is to threaten with economics.

When it hurts the pocket, standards actually might improve.

Congrats to them for putting some pressure on the the service providers.

Some dive and tour companies could do trip to Maldives to learn how well safety instructions are explained on boats , snorkeling and diving tours.

Risks explained, correct behavior demonstrated, snorkeling skills tested before going on a tour etc

Hopefully we will se less casualties in the coming year.


Posted by wm on December 25, 2015 13:58


I was at Suwarnaphum airport last night and I'd estimate the numbers at about 80
% Indian and Chinese. Europeans very few.

Posted by Arun Muruga on December 25, 2015 14:51


The year is ending with a bang.

Thai tourist guides are none too fond of the Chinese tourists in general. May we live in ingesting times indeed. And interesting ones too..

Posted by Farang888 on December 25, 2015 15:25


That is because the Chinese as a rule do not listen to the rules, many cant swim, lead very unhealthy lives and smoke a lot before going in the water when they are weak swimmers. BUT the worst thing is they pre book in their country with a Chinese center who uses untrained and unqualified staff so they can do on the cheap. ALL these deaths can be avoided overnight if the Chinese tours only put safety before profit. No dive center likes this as these bad centers killing people gives us all a bad name. We want them off the island too. The only people to blame are the Chinese customers and their agents back in China that set the trips up.

Posted by Simon on December 25, 2015 16:18

Editor Comment:

So it's the fault of the victims . . . of course. Why didn't we think of that. What did you say was the name of your business?


It's all very well to blame Thailand/Phuket for poor safety, but perlease....the way these chinese wander about in the middle of the roads, and wobbly way they ride motorbikes, they seem to have scant regard to their own safety !

Posted by jimbo34 on December 25, 2015 17:36


Having dived in many countries they should look at the safety standards of Queensland (stricter than NSW unless it has changed in the last years) and Israel both are excellent.

Posted by I am pretty far from ok on December 25, 2015 19:21


Great, that will be a positive for the environment in many ways.
Less cigarette buts thrown away, less crazy bus drivers on the roads, less speedboats parked on the southern beaches and less damaged coral.

Posted by john on December 25, 2015 19:39


@ wm

Yes he does and it's great he uses that to benefit the safety of his citizens but at the same time it's unimaginable something similar would work in a democratic country.

Can you imagine any western nation barring it's citizens from visiting a certain nation or region ?

China did this with the Philippines a short time ago and virtually all travel agencies had to stop selling trips to the PI.

Posted by Herbert on December 25, 2015 19:43


Well to be honest I don't really mind that Chinese and Korean People don't come anymore they can't swim but the biggest issue is that they have no education,I was at La Gritta a few years ago and they where changing dipers on a restaurant table worst experience ever in a fancy restaurant.Pleas stay home or get an education.

Posted by Khun Philippe on December 25, 2015 20:30


Dear Chinese Authorities

We would welcome the banning of your tourists coming to Phuket - time and again phuket has proven a dangerous place for chinese tourists and I would suggest offering them holidays to safer destinations who care more for their visitors

This will also solve the traffic issues of all the huge buses rushing around the island

Everyone's a winner (apart from the man who owns all the chinese tourist businesses but I guess he doesn't need the money by now)

Yay for phuket !!

Posted by Discover Thainess on December 25, 2015 20:58


Is being unable to swim a factor ?

Posted by mike murphy on December 26, 2015 02:06

Editor Comment:

There is nothing to stop a non-swimmer booking on a snorkelling day-trip. Provided they're in a floatation jacket and know how to breathe properly through a snorkel, not being able to swim will not kill you.


@ simon
your diving cpmpany can't be any good if you say things like that.
they forgot somebody was in the water and left. blame that on the chinese, you are pathetic

Posted by FS on December 26, 2015 07:19


Simple Simon, what is your company name? So us farang will know where not to go..

Posted by Farang888 on December 26, 2015 08:25


Why all the bad comments when Simon speaks absolute sense.
If and when you have the guidelines in place, staff trained to deliver health and safety when snorkelling, then passed down, it is then up to the individual to have the common sense to take it all on board.
I am not being callous but people need to take responsibility and smarten up as to the potential dangers, not only in the sea but other activities available on the island too.

Posted by LES on December 27, 2015 03:33

Editor Comment:

''The only people to blame are the Chinese customers and their agents back in China that set the trips up.'' - Simon.

Do you really believe the customers are to blame for their own drownings, LES? The speedboat crews and guides have no duty of care? What a shocking, deeply disturbing attitude. I doubt that it's shared by anyone except Simon, and now you.


LES, do you always blame the victim? Be a good boy now, and go with Simon and put your toys away.

Time to grow up fella..

Posted by Farang888 on December 27, 2015 07:56


Chinese - its called teaching them how to swim before they get here.....

Posted by aussieinphuket on December 27, 2015 12:33

Editor Comment:

Unless you are taught how to use a snorkel when you arrive on Phuket and take a trip, then you could still drown - whether or not you can swim.


The new freedoms in China allow the uneducated, uncultured masses to roam free with an apparent unlimited budget (for cheap group tours).
They are 80% of Japanese duty free sales, pushing through shops en masse buying up anything and everything not made in China. They yell, cough, fart, yell again and smoke wherever they are, regardless of the location or circumstance.
They throw hot water on flight attendants, open emergency exits on aircraft, fight with gate agents and yell some more. They pee in the moat in Chiang Mai.
They can't swim yet they book tours to go snorkeling and diving. Nothing is ever their fault and now they want to pull out of Phuket because it's the Thais fault that they're drowning in droves.
When they leave HKT, can they leave the rest of Thailand as well? It would be best for everyone.

Posted by Sam on December 27, 2015 16:55


"editor comment: So it's the fault of the victims...."

Yes. It is. I do not work in the dive industry but I do dive and I do work in a risk and safety driven industry. The facts are that the tourists themselves should be making the proper risk assessments "can I swim?" "am I comfortable in the water" "should I pre-arrange a personal guide" these are questions that particularly Chinese tourists disregard and expect after paying the cheapest day tour they will magically be taught to swim in open water.

I don't absolve all operators, some are reckless at best. But many provide reasonable safety mitigations. Water safety is down to the individual. Not a boat operator who laid eyes on a customer 1hr previously.

Posted by aussieInSEAsia on December 27, 2015 16:59

Editor Comment:

''I don't absolve all operators, some are reckless at best.''

What you are saying is that it's an industry that cannot or will not self-regulate to meet normal standards. You know, duty of care. That's an indication the Chinese envoy should remove their citizens or urge them to go somewhere safer. ''Reckless at best'' is a shocking indictment . . . little wonder the victims are being blamed.


Every year Chinese get in trouble in the water chasing abalone near Perth Western Australia. They ignore the dangers and expect police and life savers to be at their beck and call. Perhaps, like most sensible people don't go in the water if you can't swim.

Posted by Peter on December 27, 2015 19:36

Editor Comment:

How many yachties and trawler fishermen can't swim, Peter? I venture to suggest it's not just Chinese.


Common sense is obviously seems a dying virtue, and some of you have just bypassed my comments without actually reading them and taking in what i am saying !!.
Assuming the suppliers equipment and procedures are in order and then If you are informed through proper instruction the pros and cons of certain situations it is then up to the individual to take responsibility for any actions. If you cant swim, have a medical condition are under the influence of a substance for example along with all other possibilities then it is down to us all to decide what is safe for us to do.
I was taught and told when i was a young child in the UK never to cross the road without looking both ways. Would you cross the road when a car is coming.
If i run across the road in front of a safely driven vehicle and am killed then is it not my fault ? sad as the case may be ?
If you dont get this concept you must posses zilch common sense and deserve what you get.Let the blame culture prevail and hope you are never on the receiving end.

Posted by LES on December 28, 2015 01:31

Editor Comment:

If the speedboat crew or the tour guide company is being paid money to take the traveller diving or snorkelling, that contract automatically includes a duty of care, LES. Unless those contractors make it plain that people who cannot swim or do not know how to use a snorkel are not permitted, then the boat crews and tour guides are obliged as a matter of course to protect their customers in all circumstances. It's unprofessional to say ''Nothing to do with us.'' The same applies to the resorts that encourage visitors to come to Phuket in the monsoon season yet neglect to warn people about the deadly rips. There is no excuse.


As a speedboat company manager, i know first to blame are the operators who agree on the chinese package trade prices with the agents (plus the outrageous commissions) - in these trade prices less important things like safety simply can't be included and this information surprisingly enough just doesn't make it all the way to the customers. Why am i not surprised..

Posted by Anonymous on December 28, 2015 10:20


I hope they stop this mass murder tours, How many Chinesere have died in the waters around Thailand this year ?

Posted by Bjorn Ronningen on December 29, 2015 07:15


I think it is also in ones own responsibility not going into deep water unless you know how to swim. The sea is not a play ground. It's just too simple blaming only the Thais.

Posted by Domi on January 6, 2016 19:50

Editor Comment:

We are blaming guides and boatcrew, not necessarily Thais, for allowing their customers to drown. The reason why we pay police is because some people will always exceed their limits.

Tuesday June 28, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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