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Would-be lifeguards train at Phuket's Kata beach: a long way to run yet

Phuket Lifeguards Swim, Run to Beat the System

Monday, April 19, 2010
News Analysis

PHUKETWAN watched 25 potential heroes put to the test at Kata at the weekend. Phuket's new lifeguard service remains a work in progress, with training programs underway at Phuket's popular beaches.

The 9.99 million baht contract, though, still has not been signed. Question marks must hang over the safety of some Phuket beaches for swimming this low/monsoon/summer season, with or without lifeguards.

How much is a life worth? How much value should be placed on the skills of someone who is capable of saving a life?

Having been at Vachira Hospital in Phuket City on January 1 when 10-year-old Pichet ''Max'' Srinakarat was wheeled past on a trolley, lifeless, the first needless drowning of 2010, our judgement is: ''Whatever it takes.''

Other drownings and close calls have followed. It's plainly safer to have lifeguards on Phuket's beaches than not to have them, especially bearing in mind the island's reputation for being a safe and secure tourist destination.

If lifeguards blow their whistles to warn tourists to leave the water and the tourists refuse to leave, as sometimes happens, then whatever follows is hardly the fault of the lifeguards.

Whistle-blowing was not on the list of tests at the weekend, but Kata beach did see plenty of action as the wannabe lifeguards did some warm-up exercises, went for a long, loosing run to prove their endurance, then put themselves to a test of Australian-standard requirements for saving lives in the water and reviving swimmers at beaches.

More than 100 candidates are trying out for the 84 lifeguard positions. One in five are men who have been lifeguards previously, so the skills mostly need to be taught from scratch.

But money remains the largest problem. Most of the men who win the rescue roles will be part-timers. The Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, having accepted the 9.9 million baht tender, will take seven percent back in tax. Along with other imposed deductions, that means the lifeguards will earn much less than 10,000 baht a month.

''For 25,000 baht a month,'' said lifeguard trainer Samas Jandee, ''Phuket could have very good full-time lifeguards. ''For less than10,000 baht, everybody struggles to cover their costs.''

And because the contract will have to be renewed year after year under the tendering system, all the good work going into training this season's lifeguards could be wasted if someone else wins the next contract.

The tendering system also led to Phuket's beaches being unmanned from mid-November, and they will not have lifeguards until at least May. What kind of a system is that?

To have a holiday island that promotes itself as a year-round beach destination yet goes for most of the time without lifeguards is counter-productive, to say the least.

What is a life worth? What if that life belongs to a tourist who has come to Phuket to enjoy a ''summer'' beach holiday of the kind now being offered at extremely attractive low-season prices?

All we can say is that the high number of drowning last year seems to reflect a lack of appreciation by authorities of the value of lives of both Thais and tourists. The main point to remember is this: If you take a swim on a beach on Phuket, you do so at your own peril.

The man who won this year's lifeguard contract, Praithaiyur ''Nut'' Chuayuan, the president of the Phuket Lifeguard Club, has not signed the contract and will not sign until a full complement of lifeguards have been recruited and partly trained.

''There are people who are very keen and others with experience,'' he told Phuketwan. ''If everything goes smoothly, we should be able to sign the contract on Monday [April 19].

''After the training of the paid lifeguards, we will continue to train volunteers. There are students from Phuket and surrounding provinces who are keen to learn lifesaving skills.''

There are signs of hope, with the increasing interest in surfing on Phuket especially generating a new generation of Thais who will for the first time be keen to learn to swim.

Over the next few years, a new beach culture could begin to emerge and develop, with beach safety a key ingredient in that change.

Meanwhile, Phuket's novice lifeguards will be trying, for all they are worth, to live up to the expectations of those who place great value on each and every life.
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PLEASE LISTEN AND LEARN FROM THE PROFFESIONALS....PHUKET...

The phuket lifeguard administration has been offered help by the AUSTRALIAN LIFEGUARD ASSOCIATION....I HOPE THEY ACCEPT IT...

Posted by barka on April 19, 2010 15:22


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