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A woman is rescued at Surin beach on the day a Belgian and a Russian drowned. The photo album shows conditions at Surin and at Laem Singh

Phuket Lifeguards Save Two Chinese and Rescue Phuket's Tourism Future

Saturday, June 22, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

PHUKET: A Chinese couple were saved from drowning by lifeguards at Karon beach yesterday - and the lifeguards probably also saved Phuket tourism.

If the Chinese couple had drowned, Phuket's appeal to Chinese visitors would have probably gone under with them.

The couple were taken to Patong Hospital and later allowed to leave.

Drownings of tourists became a weekly event between mid-May and mid-July last year when seven overseas visitors and one Thai tourist from Bangkok drowned on Phuket's popular west coast beaches.

The Chinese Ambassador, Guan Mu, met with Phuket officials on May 29 and made a straightforward plea for a more concerted effort to prevent needless drownings.

Chinese not only drown while swimming on Phuket's beaches but also while snorkelling on day trips off Phuket and Phi Phi.

On Wednesday, a Chinese man was killed when struck by the propeller of a speedboat in scenic Pileh Bay, near Phi Phi.

One day earlier, a Chinese man had drowned on an outing to Racha island, a popular destination about 40 minutes by speedboat from Phuket.

On Thursday, a Belgian man drowned at Phuket's Laem Singh beach and before an hour had passed, a Russian man perished in the surf at Patong.

Remembering the sea rescue of more than 400 tourists earlier this year and a similar if smaller rescue off Krabi more recently, is it any wonder that marine safety has become an issue for the Phuket region?

As the Chinese ambassador said and as Phuketwan has long advocated, all tourists arriving on Phuket should be warned that the sea can be dangerous.

Repetition is required so the message sinks in. New arrivals should be warned at the airport, perhaps via a card slipped into their passports at Immigration.

They should be warned again, directly when they check in by a receptionist. Nothing beats a person to person message, especially in the appropriate language.

And they should be warned a third time, if they venture to the beach and ignore the red flags.

As the lifeguards have said, this is not something that they can do alone.

People who believe they have paid for a swimming holiday on Phuket will be intent on taking that swim, no matter what.

Yes, individuals have a responsibility for their own safety. But Phuket has a collective responsibility to warn people who come to the island in tropical holiday mode.

Everything they experience before reaching the beach indicates to them that Phuket is a delightful place, the sun is shining, and nothing can possibly go wrong.

Having attracted them to spend their money on Phuket, the island must do its darnedest to make sure they get home alive.

We'd like to see meetings organised where resort managements can share their experiences. Some resorts are already ultra-aware places, where the safety of guests is the highest possible priority.

Other resorts take a carefree approach and figure their responsibility ends at the front door. That's no longer the case.

Phuketwan cannot know whether or not the latest drowning victims on Phuket were properly warned by the resorts where they were staying.

But we have named resorts where drowning victims were staying and we intend to keep on naming resorts if we can.

Saving lives is not something the Phuket authorities or resort managements can leave up to the lifeguards. It's a collective responsibility, and it's time the Phuket community understood.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


What about the responsibility of the Chinese tourists? Shouldn't they have at least some basic swimming experience before entering the ocean? Red flags are posted daily and ignored. They get into trouble and then expect some one else to jump in and save them.

Posted by Tommy on June 22, 2013 15:19

Editor Comment:

If they have been warned once, warned twice, warned three times, then yes, it's entirely their fault.


3m swell, common sense and use of their eyes should also be used! Nobody told me not to jump from my 5th floor balcony, but my own common sense told it would not be wise. I agree warning should be heeded, but personal liability does not stop once yuo leave the aircraft. If you dont know ocena conditions & cant swim well, then stay out

Posted by eezergood on June 22, 2013 16:12


Having witnessed many rescues on the local beaches I'm always appalled at the behavior of the person just saved. They usually just walk away without a simple thank you. I'm sure they are in shock at the experience but maybe they should think about a fine if the lifeguards have to save them. The money could be used to buy more equipment and hire more guards. People may be hesitant to go in the water with red flags waving if they know they will have to pay if they need to be rescued.

Posted by Jon on June 22, 2013 16:35


It seems the life guards are the only Thais making any kind of effort to try to protect the tourists. Everyone else is above them in the food chain and are doing nothing at all.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 22, 2013 20:11


@jon wont work they will treat that as a foolproof safety back up mechanism and all the more reason to go in.

Posted by slickmelb on June 22, 2013 23:28



Some of these people have never been to beaches like this before understand the language problem, they need to be warned by agents/hotels etc about this season


No way should money come into lifesaving rescue
yes they are in shock as a surf lifeguard we are told not to approach victim directly in water as they are confused and will just grab we have to use our feet or flotation device, who knows what goes through a persons mind with a near death experience, personally I have had three close experiences in drowning but I am one of those people who does not affect that way.

Posted by Michael on June 22, 2013 23:33


just looked at the pics 150 lifesavers with belts and reels on the beach (ok that was the old way of doing things)
still should not tempt anyone to venture into waters like that just look at those white rolling breakers a sure danger sign thats its not mill pond conditions out there.

Posted by slickmelb on June 22, 2013 23:38


Jon for god sake man don't let this lot know they can make money by rescuing people from drowning they'll be flinging them into the sea to make even more money

Posted by Scunner on June 23, 2013 04:44


I really hope something is done about beach safety. I really hope Phuket doesn't get a worse reputation for being more dangerous in the water than it is on the land. It won't take very many more Chinese tourists dying or having a "safety issue" here and there will be big problems for local government.

Posted by Ryan on June 23, 2013 11:19


I think it is obvious to all nationalities what a line of red flags along a beach means. The cretins that still venture into the waves and need rescuing should be booked and made to make a sizeable contribution to the lifeguards.

Posted by ElCapitan on June 23, 2013 13:36


This happens every year in Australia too. Inexperienced swimmer jumping head first into big surf.
It doesn't matter how many warnings you put out there will still be people there who think they know better.

Posted by Peter on June 24, 2013 09:53


The problem is many people can't swim and if they can have only swam in pools and have no experience in beach side conditions. They panic quickly and struggle in adverse currents. More can be done to inform tourists as they clear customs, check into hotels, and lastly on the beach but ultimately it is the swimmer who has to take responsibility for themselves. They put themselves and the lifeguards in danger when they make poor decisions.

Posted by Tuna on June 24, 2013 12:33

Thursday March 23, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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