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Lifeguards in the early days of the reintroduced system at Karon, Phuket

Phuket Drownings Rile Fans of World's No.4 Beach

Friday, August 14, 2009
Phuketwan Karon Beach Photo Album Above

RESENTMENT is growing over a beach lifeguard service that fails to impress residents or tourists or save lives, says a Karon member of the Provincial Council, Pornthep Chamkhow.

He says doubts about the effectiveness of the newly-introduced system at Karon are reflected at all of Phuket's popular beaches.

''At Karon the guards do not wear uniforms and spend their time gambling,'' Khun Pornthep said. ''It is a bad image for Phuket.

''It is costing 10 million baht so we need a system that works.''

Today the influential international news agency Reuters released a ''child-friendly'' Lonely Planet list of the ''Top 10 Beach Holidays for Families'' that has Karon Beach, Phuket, at No. 4.

''Family-friendly Karon, with its Flintstone-themed fun park, is a great base for exploring Phuket's beaches and reserves, including Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Center.''

That wonderful promotion rings hollow, though, without an adequate lifeguard rescue service, especially during the marketing of Phuket's first ''Summer'' season, when drownings have been reported frequently.

Khun Pornthep, who oversees the local tuk-tuk service, said he had been told the lifeguards earned just 5000 baht a month and were expected to work seven days a week.

He said there had been nine drownings at Karon so far this year, seven before the lifeguard system was reintroduced in June and two since.

Nine lifeguards were posted in three pods along four kilometres of beach, he said.

''We need the lifeguard company to make this work,'' he said. ''It's just not good enough.'' He said the same was true of all of Phuket's popular beaches.

Under the terms of the contract, lifeguards are to be sent in rotation to Bali, Indonesia, for training.

One local safety expert has called for the training to be done in a more cost-effective way on Phuket.

Drownings at Phuket's popular western beaches have continued this year despite the advent of the new lifeguard system.

The death toll in and around Phuket topped 30 for the first six months of the year, although Public Health figures do not make clear how many of the drownings occurred at Phuket's beaches.

For the first time, resorts have been promoting the monsoon season this year as ''Summer.'' To most tourists, the northern hemisphere ''Summer'' is a time for beach holidays.

On Phuket, however, ''Summer'' is also the season when the monsoon rip currents are running and at their most dangerous.

Some Thais and tourists have even drowned after ignoring the visual warnings of prominent new signs and the advice of lifeguards.

The closure of beaches, with a complete ban on swimming, has been suggested as the only option left unless the warnings and the present lifeguard system can be improved to prevent the needless loss of life continuing.

As several cases have demonstrated this year, unless CPR is applied speedily after rescue, people pulled from the water may still become drowning victims.

The expert advice for someone caught in a rip current is to float with it, rather than to fight it. A short distance out from the shore, a swimmer can escape the weakened current and find a safe route back.

Today's Reuters Life! release reads: ''Sun, sea, sand - beaches are a natural holiday destination for many families where everybody, big and small, can have fun.''

Karon fills number four place on the list behind Costa Del Sud, Sardinia, Cottesloe, Australia, and Durban, South Africa.
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia, holds No. 10 spot.

But does any beach where safety seems uncertain and nine people have drowned so far this year deserve a place among the ''Top 10 Beach Holidays for Families''?

The article adds: ''Lonely Planet's ''Travel With Children'' book lists what it believes are the world's most child-friendly beaches. This list is not endorsed by Reuters.''

Whether or not Karon is a safe beach for families, the Loney Planet list is likely to be distributed widely around the Internet. Reports of the drownings are less likely to be carried.

Phuket beaches are usually tranquil and safe most days during Phuket's high season from November to April but rip currents make them risky for all except the strongest swimmers from May to October.

Resorts along Karon beach are also favored to host 16 national leaders and their entourages for the Asean Plus Six summit in Thailand in October.

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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Um, hey "lifeguards", get the water out of the lungs FIRST before applying CPR. With a child pick them up by their feet, adults- turn them onto the stomach and raise the feet. NOTHING will revive a drowning unless you do this first basic step.

Posted by Med School on August 15, 2009 07:43


Phuket needs to consider using the Australian life saving model for its beaches. Perhaps by bringing Australian life guards to Phuket so the local life guards receive training would improve the situation on Phukets beaches.

The Australian system has a large volunteer component which also encourages children to learn to swim and compete against each other on a club basis. The system promotes a healthy lifestyle.

If young adults (18+) are swimming and patrolling the beaches on a volunteer basis they are not out getting into trouble. They system is a win win for everyone. Its worth a shot!!!

Posted by Anonymous on August 15, 2009 09:26


There is NO WAY that Kata/Karon would ever qualify as the #4 beach in the world. It's unswimmable half the year, suffers from ecoli and hotel sewage, has mud-covered, choked corals, and in no way compares to the beautiful beaches of Hawaii, Saipan, and Guam.

Get real!

Posted by water sprite on August 29, 2009 00:45

Monday February 26, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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