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Phuket Tourism Summit Told of Mafia, 'Foreign Media'

Thursday, June 28, 2012
PHUKET: A vice president of the Phuket Tourist Association, Sarayuth Mallam, told a summit on tourism on Phuket yesterday that ''just only one'' murder on Phuket was ''a small issue'' and that everyday tourist rip-offs were more significant.

He told Phuket's first summit of the Committee in Support of Tourism that the constant cheating and rip-offs of tourists was what needed to be fixed and criticised committees set up to deal with tourism issues that never met.

''Only this team [Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha's committee] ever meets regularly.''

He said the problems went back more than two decades, and the situation had never changed.

Low-level representatives of the various authorities were sent to attend important meetings as if they were of no importance, Khun Sarayuth said.

Phuket had far too few police officers than it needed for an international tourist destination [fewer than 1100, the meeting was told later.].

Khun Sarayuth also criticised Phuket's English-language media and said the ''foreign media'' employed Thais with ''farang [foreign] hearts.''

''The local media, everyone is super,'' he said. ''I read the local news, every media every day. The foreigner media called me and asked me for a comment about what the police had done on this issue [Michelle Smith's murder] to arrest the bad guys.

''When a Thai reporter calls me they ask me 'How can we support the police, the policemen are working very well, the policemen are super.

''The problem is the Thai media and the foreign media, the thinking in looking at this issue is different. Which one is better?''

He added that as a Thai person, reporters needed to have a ''conscientious mind that you are a Thai. You have to know that if you present bad news, this has a bad effect on the tourist industry.''

He then said of the spate of recent drownings - six people drowned at Phuket's beaches between May 18 and June 19 - ''When the Thai media present the news of the drownings, the headline just said 'The tourist is naughty and ran into the sea and did not believe the lifeguards.'

''But the foreign media says, 'Drown again' 'drown again.' They never support Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation President Paiboon Upatising [who pays for the lifeguards.]

''Who is going to want to work if you don't have support? He needs encouragement.''

Khun Sarayuth said that when Phuket tourism industry people went on road shows around the world, the constant issues were: ''When will you stop rip offs of the tourists, when will the service improve, when will you have the standards?

''We need a plan for action and safety 365 days a year.''

He criticised ''foreign mafia'' - especially time share operators in Patong - who were able to pay senior police to avoid prosecution and exposure.

Yesterday's meeting was chaired by Governor Tri with the presence of Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin and Vice Governor Jamleran Tipayapongtada indicating its importance.

[Khun Sarayuth telephoned a Phuketwan reporter earlier this year and suggested the reporter and the Phuketwan editor leave the country for pointing out Phuket's problems. ''Does Singapore pay you to beat Phuket?'' he asked.

Phuketwan wholeheartedly supports Khun Paiboon's lifeguards and agrees with Khun Sarayuth that more needs to be done to solve Phuket's enduring problems.]

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Khun Sarayuth Mallam has, like no one before I dare say, understood the true purpose of journalism...

Posted by Hans Forssell on June 28, 2012 10:41

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I agree with Khun Sarayuth's comments regarding Phuketwan - this site is more often than not bashing Phuket for some things that are not the fault of the Thai people, Government, Police or lifeguards.

The editor of Phuketwan would have Phuket marketed as a deathly location during the summer months. Visitors should only "go for walks and shopping".

The sea has been gorgeous and perfect for a swim for about the last 20 days straight!!!

If things are dangerous the Thai lifeguards DO warnh tourists, but they are too hardheaded and lacking in enough brains to head the warnings, go swimming anyway and die - this is not the fault of the lifeguards, hotels, police, government or even the airline captains...

This is an international tourist destination that the majority of residents make their income in one way or another from tourism and the trickle down effect of the tourism revenue.

A positive slant to news stories would be a welcome addition.

As said before - if the editor is so wise and has so many ideas to "fix" Phuket - put down your keyboard and DO something instead of constantly griping about how others are not DOING anything.

Posted by Ty on June 28, 2012 10:43

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Khun Sarayuth said "the problems went back more than two decades, and the situation had never changed"; so he has to blame local administrations and some corrupted civil servants for negligence on duty to resolve Phuket problems.
In fact, the same problems happening in western countries or Singapore would have been fixed on a short time-frame with a task-force if necessary to have success.
Indirectly, Mr Sarayuth blames his fellow Thais to be inefficient which we may agree amongst residents, Thais and foreigners alike.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on June 28, 2012 10:48

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1.) The problem is the Thai media and the foreign media, the thinking in looking at this issue is different. Which one is better?
Answer: Whoever is more transparent and focused on the truth is simply better as people have a right to know the truth!

2.) He criticised ''foreign mafia'' - especially time share operators in Patong - who were able to pay senior police to avoid prosecution and exposure.
Answer: If the senior police would not accept (ask) for bribes the problem would be solved! So where is the problem?

3.)"He said the problems went back more than two decades, and the situation had never changed."
Comment: Why did the situation never change? Is there anyone who don't want the situation to change for the better?

Bravo PW and all other media who focus on the truth!

Posted by Mr. K on June 28, 2012 11:17

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That's right Khun Sarayuth, just sweep the problems under the carpet, blame the farang (again). This is how the problems have worsened. Fortunately other PTA members think differently.

Posted by mike on June 28, 2012 11:17

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OMG. I despair for Phuket when people like K. Sarayuth, who I previously thought was a level headed administrator, shoots the messenger. The corrupt "dark influences" must be laughing. They expect this "minor incident" will soon pass and we can get back to the business of scamming the tourists. The time share touts are a pain in the rear end but they can never be compared to the jetski & tuk tuk mafia. Anyway the latest time share on offer is owned by Patong's number one "family".

Posted by helen on June 28, 2012 11:45

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Do not lose heart PW. I know for a fact that numerous Embassies read your reports. Keep up your excellent, accurate reporting.

Posted by Petr on June 28, 2012 12:11

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Sir, please explain to us then why reporters like Phuket Wan and The Gazette should not warn people about the Jet Ski Scam and the fact that they may be ripped off for 30 or 40 thousand Baht. Officials like yourself know who the scammers are, know who the police involved are, only government personnel can stop it. As for the timeshare **** of the earth in my view, again you can only blame the officials (Thai Officials) problem is in Phuket is that there are so many people on the take, who's is that very big new house just on the hill as you go south out of Patong ?

Posted by Terry on June 28, 2012 13:13

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Face saving is an important part of Thai culture. This is projected within their news media. The issues here are twofold: transparency in presenting the objective facts in any news story unemotionally; and objectively dealing with the 2 decades of non-action. Murder, even 1, is not a small issue. Over the last several years there have been several murders, each reflecting a lack of police/government/public control within the region. This is further exacerbated by the numerous "petty" crimes against both Thai and foreign persons. If journalism is slanted to reduce the impact of these crimes, then only the society may be blamed for allowing this to continue.

Posted by Paoa on June 28, 2012 13:33

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Very ironic Khun Sarayuth that as Vice President of The Phuket Tourist Asscociation says negative things about farangs as his job is meant to be to encourage more farangs to come to Phuket. I also feel that rip-offs are distressing but a murder is the ultimate bad crime and to say it is a small issue is very insensitive to the friends and family of Michelle Smith. Does Phuketwan know if there are any farangs in this tourism board? Seems logical there should be or would they think too differently, too much like the people they are looking to come to Phuket and spend money.

Posted by FaranginPhuket on June 28, 2012 13:36

Editor Comment:

We think it's way past the time when local leaders accepted that Phuket's place as an international destination requires some international input.

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PTA & TAT are a major contributor to many of the problems besetting Phuket & Thailand. It's commonly called 'Ostrich Syndrome'! To try to blame 'farang' style journalism is quite typical. Place the blame anywhere but where it belongs. It's like saying that if tourists didn't exist, then there would be no drownings, no mafia problems, etc. Clearly Phuket Wan serves a purpose as a forum for people to air their opinions, be they positive or negative. Certainly plenty of people appear to enjoy reading the articles & then responding. If the Thais don't value 'farang' opinion, then stop tourists coming by all means! Then they can go back to mining tin, fishing, growing rubber & pineapples or whatever they did before.

Posted by Logic on June 28, 2012 14:19

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@Ty..what the hell are you on about..most people complain about Phuketwan for exactly thepposite to what you say, as for Thai life guards, perhaps you should walk the beaches, as much as I do, and I have yet to see them warn anyone, usually I see the resting on their deck chairs, or laying back on their jet skis, I have yet to see one "patrolling" the beach, hell, I haven't even seen one with binoculars, as for khun Sarayuth Mallam, I fear he has eaten too many magic mushrooms, his comments are truely wierd, to say the least, and make a comment like "He added that as a Thai person, reporters needed to have a ''conscientious mind that you are a Thai. You have to know that if you present bad news, this has a bad effect on the tourist industry.''
" really does show where his heart is ... money, tourists' money.''

Posted by dbate on June 28, 2012 16:06

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@dbate... that is exactly one the points that Khun Sarayuth is trying to make.

I also spend quite a bit of time at the beaches in Phuket and talk with the lifeguards - not just look at them. They are frustrated that foreigners do not listen to them when they try to warn them. Many are told off by foreigners and then when an accident happens after foreigners either ignore the red flags and advice from the lifeguards - thay are blamed!!!

Any person that tries to do their job, but is ignored, then blamed will start to feel like...what more can they do? Why are they even here? Why are they compared to lifeguards in places like Australia that have millions of dollars in their budgets for staff and EQUIPMENT???

Foreigners are constantly comparing the way things are done her to the way things are back home. I have news for you - you are not back home!

This is a developing country / society - things were not perfect in the not so distant past back home either.

The Thai people are proud and not all are corrupt.

Many want change and believe it or not I have seen change over the last 15 years.

Now are all the comments made by Khun Sarayuth ones that I would agree with - certainly not, but a change in the attitudes of BOTH Thai's and Farang are necessary for things to move forward.

Finger pointing in both directions will only make change harder and take longer.

It is not anyone's country but the Thai people's. THEY need to make the changes for themselves for their own benefit.

No measure of ranting, raving, finger pointing or pretending to know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it in a country and society where you are a guest and have not grown up in is ridiculous to say the least.

Imagine if a bunch of Thai non-immigrants and holiday makers starting ranting and raving about change in your own country AND pretending to have all the answers - what would you say then?

Posted by Ty on June 28, 2012 18:57

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The main point of lifeguards is obvious, but the Thai authorties also need to look at the lost revenue from not having allocated more finance to enable lifeguards to have access to the equipment needed, jetskis etc to maintain safety as tourists go elsewhere, Australia etc as they feel unsafe having read the deaths from drowning. It is so sad that anyone needs to drown. The money made from tourism in Thailand, ALL tourists deserve to be protected, some of whom have never swam in the sea, no matter a tropical sea.

Posted by FarangInPhuket on June 28, 2012 20:39

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Food for thought:

Australia

Fact - from 2000-2007 (seven years) 2,433 overseas visitors including 25 children have died with causes of death ranging from drownings, heat stroke and even jellyfish stings.

All this despite the millions spent on equipment and huge amounts of staff and training.

If Australians feel unsafe here, how do they feel in their own backyard?

If these numbers are present in such a "modern and safe" society, it appears that Phuket is doing quite well when compared.

Fact - Australia has on average 5 million visitors per year

FACT - Thailand has 15 million visitors per year

That averages out to 347 tourist deaths per year in Australia, which has 3 times LESS visitors than Thailand.

Unless I am missing something, it seems like Phuket and Thailand is a whole lot safer than Australia.

I for one love Phuket & Thailand!

Feel free to check the numbers:

guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/05/australia.travel

Posted by Ty on June 28, 2012 21:16

Editor Comment:

Numbers won't ease the grief of the families of the people who drowned on Phuket. FACT: Resorts and authorities on Phuket must put more effort into preventing unnecessary drownings. No point in supporting the misconceived notion that drownings are ''natural.'' People will take beach holidays where they feel safe. Prevention, not acceptance.

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@Ty The sea has been gorgeous and perfect for a swim for about the last 20 days straight!!!
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Hallo! Which beaches you are talking about? Of Bahama islands, perhaps?

If about beaches of Phuket, then sea is very very choppy, and although I am a good swimmer, I hardly went further than 10-20 m from the shore - a kind of hugely strong undercurrents etc., that I never ever felt before, namely at PaTong and KaTa. Large amount of rubbish. Beach stray dogs defecating into the sea. Lifeguards are not lazy, and try to control swimmers to be within supervised area - but so many various flags, so confusing: small red one to mark the lifiguards' monitored area, yellow-red within that area, yellow buddhist flags, then various kinds of national flags - it is hard to keep attention on all those multicolored exposition, bar to figure out what relates to dangers in the sea.
Warning signs are very counterintuitive - icon shows the swimmer, but text says Don't swim - for Europeans'/Americans' brains , if No Swim, then the icon should be crossed with Red Line - if not, it is perceived like place for safe swimming. So first, the icons - if they are prohibitive signs, should be remodeled.
Second, area of lifeguard control should eb clearly marked with slogans and large - A1 signs, that are placed toward the sea, not toward the road - like in Australia - YOU CAN SWIM ONLY BETWEEN YELLOW_RED FLAGS and graphic interpretations of where is this permitted area located - two flags, area between them marked CAN SWIM, area beyond the interval marked with red crosses NO SWIM.

Posted by SUe on June 29, 2012 05:21

Editor Comment:

What Ty sees and reality are quite different. There were several drownings during Ty's ''gorgeous and perfect for a swim for about the last 20 days straight.'' Where the young American drowned the sign said : Swimming area.

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@TY..you use a lot of words to say little, and not once did I say, on this story, anything about Australia, my point was that I have never seen a life guard warning anyone, you may have spoken to them, but we all know about saving face, fact is, go there and watch them, resting and sleeping, NOT patrolling, in fact on the full length of Patong beach, I saw only 2 lifeguards (both sleeping), a joke, Phuket takes a LOT of tourist money, but puts little back, as for looking at other countries, why don't they, all the expertise is there, all they need to do is ASK, maybe free holiday for surf life savers, pls, don't mention WP's, as for it being thais country, yes but you have to remember, they want foreign money and investment, most foreigners only want a safe happy holiday.

Posted by dbate on June 29, 2012 07:46

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Why has my second comment not been posted?

Posted by FarangInPhuket on June 29, 2012 10:39

Editor Comment:

your previous two comments have been posted.


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