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A young man is pulled from the water at Karon beach yesterday

Phuket Beach Drowning Takes Toll to Three in Five Days

Friday, September 20, 2013
PHUKET: A young Burmese construction worker marking a religious holiday with friends at Karon became Phuket's latest beach drowning victim yesterday.

This week's Phuket beach death toll now stands at three drownings in five days.

Non-swimmer Panyo, 17, and two friends were swept off their feet about 4pm and carried beyond their depth.

One person was saved when he was able to stand on a sandbar and await rescue. A jet-ski plucked the other Burmese from the water safely, a lifeguard spokesperson said.

But Panyo was dead when fetched ashore to the beach opposite the South Sea Karon Resort, between Karon Circle and the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa.

The lifeguard spokesperson said that red flags were flying along Karon and other Phuket beaches yesterday, to signify a no-swimming day.

''Lifeguards were blowing their whistles all day trying to keep people out of the water,'' she said. ''It's just not possible to control the whole shorefront, especially at long beaches like Karon.''

Winds were whipping the waves too high all along Phuket's west coast, the spokesperson said.

The young Burmese worker's drowning yesterday was the latest in a series of drownings at popular Phuket beaches this week.

Russian tourist Alexey Tsymbalyuk, 45, drowned at Patong, the popular beach north of Karon, on Tuesday.

Well-known Thai graphic artist Pharuephon ''Mamafaka'' Mukdasanit, 34, died in a Phuket hospital on Monday after being pulled unconscious from the water at Kata beach, south of Karon, on Saturday.

The three deaths take the tally of beach drownings on Phuket close to 30 for the year so far. A tourist from Singapore was also pulled from the water, having gone swimming while drunk this week at Surin beach.

No official beach death figures have been released since April last year, when the Phuket Health Department ceased issuing regular monthly statistical updates on Phuket drownings and the road toll.

A marine safety summit has been proposed for October on Phuket, with the backing of the Phuket administration and the support of the British Embassy.

Envoys from China and other countries have become perturbed at the rising number of deaths on Phuket's beaches and on snorkelling day-trips.

Lifeguards say they are undermanned and cannot prevent people from going into the water without more warnings being issued by resorts as people arrive, with the help of local councils.

An increase in tourists to Phuket coming from China, Russia and other countries where beach safety is not well known is being blamed for the rise in drownings.

Safety experts say resorts that benefit from the revenue delivered by Phuket's year-round beach tourism should warn their guests about the dangers in the water.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A recent conversation with a guest in our hotel on a day with high and dangerous waves:

Guest: Is the ocean OK to swim?

Reception: I am very sorry sir but we don't recommend to swim in the ocean when waves are strong, please see the red flags and warning from the lifeguards on duty. Also please take a look at our warning about rip currents. But if you like to go swimming, we have 6 pools on the property.

Guest: But there are red flags everywhere, why I can't go swimming in the ocean?

Reception: I am really sorry sir but the ocean is very dangerous at that time of the year.

Guest: So there is no swimming area in your bay? You can't mark the safe areas?

Reception: Unfortunately all the coastline is effected. When the waves are high and rip currents strong we can't recommend to swim in the ocean sir.

Guest: But I came for a beach-vacation! Can you please confirm to me now that I can go swimming?!

Reception: Sorry sir, we can't do that. We recommend you to use the pool instead.

Guest: But I want to go to the ocean!

Posted by Jakub on September 20, 2013 10:44

Editor Comment:

That's why there must be warnings at the airport on arrival, in-person information delivered on check-in, and signs in every resort specifying whether it's safe or not to swim. Lifeguards are the last chance. Resort managements should also be examining whether their promotional material for holidays on Phuket should be more specific. Some resorts already take precautions. Others do not. They must.


Great to hear a real case Jakub. Thanks for sharing. Shocking, but hopefully resorts will step up and do the right (and obvious) thing. Filling a bed is not as important as saving lives and providing a longer-term future for Phuket.

Posted by Duncan on September 20, 2013 13:17

Editor Comment:

It's also important to get the dynamics right. I remember talking to the friends of someone who turned up at a Karon resort, wasn't told not to swim, and drowned within an hour of arrival. Just as the resort delivers its messages about what guests can and can't do in paying their accounts, so the message about water safety should be delivered in precisely the same tone. One the guest asks ''can I swim now'' a different dynamic is at work. Like the poor lifeguards on the beach, once the tourist senses he is being denied something he paid for, it's too late.


I think that part of the problem is that in low season (oh sorry in 'Green Season'), tourists are being mis-sold the product.

They are being sold 'beach holidays' which they naturally assume includes not only sitting on the beach but playing and swimming in the sea.

Perhaps low season holidays should be more truthfully described, such as 'danger holidays', 'stormy holidays' or even 'See Phuket and die (maybe...)'


Posted by Simon Luttrell on September 20, 2013 14:38


Good informative content. How hard can it be to stop visitors swimming in the sea?

Aren't there similar conditions at beaches in Australia? What system is in place there to stop people swimming?

Posted by gee on September 20, 2013 18:21


As a surfer who has surfed some large waves and been in some trecherous seas, I can say that karon does have some serious current and strong tidal movements... Even when waves are only relatively small the currents and rips are seriously strong.... Couple that with king tides and full moon and its even more dangerous.... Even for those with water knowledge..... RIP.

Posted by Rip van winkle on September 20, 2013 20:47


New moto for the low / green season on Phuket should be, " Visit Phuket and drown please, we have a shortage of Organ Donors".

Posted by Annoymousie on September 20, 2013 20:55


I guess if you start the day drinking a lot of beer then there will coma a time when you HAVE to pay a wisit to the sea.(or walk back 2km to your hotel) Because toilets arent very common at phuket beaches.

Posted by Martin on September 21, 2013 05:08


What about the bed-hirers handing out flyers to people in different languages explaining simply the dangers? It's in everyone's interest & would be relatively cheap to print.

Posted by Anonymous on September 21, 2013 18:16

Editor Comment:

Too late once people reach the beaches intending to swim, and there are not many massage people willing to move that far.


Terrible way to die...RIP.

The beach is full of people selling everything from sunglasses to aloe vera massages and renting everything from umbrellas to sex. Why doesn't one of these entrepreneurs start selling a small emergency floatation device that can be tied around the waist. They make some that have a CO2 canister that will inflate quite rapidly. It doesn't even have to be a jacket design but simply a pillow with arm straps.

Not to be offensive but the cost of our family vacation was not exactly cheap. Now that Thailand is not a discount vacation and prices are forecast to escalate further, the Industry better start considering improving their "product".

The boat tours of Phi-Phi were disgusting and our boat did not have enough life jackets for all of us. I was not Mr Popular when I asked to see the jackets.

The pollution is quite high and no one bothers cleaning up flotsam compared to beaches in Jamaica and the Caribe.

Lastly, the Emergency Services Infrastructure is terrible. My hat is off to the brave and selfless lifeguards on the Thai beaches but one does not have to scratch the surface to see being a victim of any kind in Thailand is far worse than in a developed nation.

If tourists are going to be paying higher prices, then Thailand better get competitive with similarly priced destinations.

No offense intended to anyone personally. This is just one tourists opinion.


Posted by Concerned on September 22, 2013 06:46



Regarding emergency infrastructure and services it might be also worth mentioning, that there are only 2 (!) emergency/ambulance cars in the whole area of Rawai, Kata and Karon. Compared to the amount of hotel-beds, this is a quite serious issue that is seldom talked about.

Posted by Jakub on September 22, 2013 13:13


Ed - referring to my earlier message about handing out flyers I was thinking exactly what you were about the massage & bed-owners not wishing to possibly damage their businesses even when peoples' lives are at stake. Shame.

Posted by Anonymous on September 24, 2013 15:43

Editor Comment:

As an anonymous commenter, it would be unfair of you to expect anyone to align any of your messages.

Saturday April 13, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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