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A Russian woman is helped at Karon beach after a rescue in May, 2012

Phuket Lifeguards in Budget Talks Aimed at Protecting Tourists

Friday, May 3, 2013
PHUKET: Talks are underway to try to prevent Phuket's tourist beaches being left unprotected by lifeguards as happened last year for seven weeks.

Annual meetings between the Phuket Lifeguard Service and the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation occur because the contract is renegotiated each year.

While the PPAO has agreed to the budget of 20 million baht, Phuketwan understands that the governing body would like to see more lifeguards on more Phuket beaches at the same cost.

Lifeguards now number 106 at 13 popular tourist beaches along Phuket's west coast. Service officials say much of their equipment is worn and needs replacing.

The contract expires at the end of May. Despite an upgrading in skills among the lifeguards and hundreds of rescues, drownings still claim lives in the seas around Phuket needlessly.

Water safety experts have made the point that as a year-round beach holiday destination, Phuket must do more to ensure that visitors who come during the more dangerous May-October monsoon season do not drown.

Last year, eight tourists drowned at Phuket west coast beaches between mid-May and mid-July.

During the monsoon period, good resort managers warn guests that they are safer in resort pools - or if they really do prefer the seas, to always swim between the lifeguard flags.

Tourists are advised to never enter the sea when red flags for danger are flying.

Some resorts that welcome guests for beach holidays during the monsoon season still fail to take responsibility for warning guests when conditions are not safe.

During the monsoon season, some of Phuket's most popular swimming beaches develop rip currents that can pull swimmers out to sea.

The currents only become dangerous when swimmers struggle to get back to shore against them. Expert advice is to allow the current to pull you out, then swim sideways, out of the current.

Statistics on the number of drownings on Phuket have not been updated since 2011. Annual figures for the road toll on Phuket have also not been provided since 2011.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


If I may make a small correction, you should not wait for the current to pull you out, you should calmly swim sideways right away, understanding that you will still drift outwards but will eventually get away from the rip which is usually less than 100m wide.

If you just float in it and wait until it dies down, you may end up 2km offshore. That is not what you should do.

Posted by Stephen on May 3, 2013 08:37

Editor Comment:

There is no ''must do'' answer. You can either float with the current or try to go sideways when you think you can manage. No Phuket beach current will carry anybody out for more than a few hundred metres.

The experts at
see it a little differently, Stephen. I think they have it right.

Here's what they say:

Rip Current Survival
If you get caught in a rip current, there are two approaches you can take, or a combination of both:
1. Relax, float and attract attention: if you are on a patrolled beach or there are surfers nearby, you can float with the current and wait for assistance. Sometimes, rip currents can also flow in a circular pattern which will return you back to the sandbank where you can stand up.
2. Escape the rip current, by swimming parallel to the beach towards the breaking waves.
These may sound like simple options, but rip currents are complex, dynamic processes and both responses also have down sides. You could float on an unpatrolled beach and not be returned to a sandbank with no-one there to help. You can also swim parallel and end up swimming against a longshore current which can flow along a beach; this will see you get tired quickly.


Having spent time in Australia it was a pleasure to see so many lifeguards. I did get caught in a Rip one time and I could see one of the guards looking at me. I decided to drift and then swim and when I reached the shore he said I was just about to come out and get you. In Phuket I would suggest relaxing and let the rip take you out as there are no sharks and there are many fishing boats offshore, plus the water temp is not going to be an issue even over hours. The problem many times with a Rip is that it is stronger than the person and the person gets tired then does not keep buoyancy and swallows seawater causing coughing and panic. Coming back to my point about Australia, sure it is a richer country but given the massive and I mean massive tourist money that comes into Phuket the government should prioritise money for more lifguards and equipment, but sadly I think the government thinks "Up to the tourist" Very wrong and disrespectful in my opinion. Without Tourist money Phuket would not have any thing like the infrastructure, wealth and jobs for Thais it has now. I do believe at the aiport they should hand out beach safety leaflets in the necessary languages. It does make me angry that Thailand does not take care of the Tourists another 10M Baht is tiny compared to the tax they get from tourists.

Posted by Lost In Translation on May 3, 2013 13:34


Hey, may be volunteers can help? I could easily have couple days a week to help life guards.

Posted by Alex on May 3, 2013 15:03


Given the fact that lifeguards risks their lives too, the money should not be an issue. Safety first. Then again, this is Thailand.

Posted by May on May 3, 2013 15:37


how about paying the life guard some commission for every swimmer rescue?

Posted by Paul on May 3, 2013 19:59

Editor Comment:

If a person who is rescued wants to pay for having their life saved, rewards are fine. But lifeguards are paid to perform rescues. To pay a bounty would be as wrong as it would be to pay anyone a bonus for doing their job.

Thursday May 23, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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