Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Phuket’s beaches still unguarded as monsoon threatens drowning epidemic  

Jun 20. 2019
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Two-and-a-half years ago, the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA), the world’s leading lifeguard development organisation, filed a formal appeal to Prime Minister Prayut on behalf of Phuket’s lifeguards. The message from experienced local lifeguards was simple:

“Please rescue us. We are in danger of drowning ourselves. Our teams may not survive.” 

Eroding support from the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation has left most of Phuket’s beaches without lifeguard coverage. Monsoon season has just begun and Phuket’s ocean waters are dangerous and remain unguarded.

The much larger picture is Phuket’s ongoing drowning epidemic and the worldwide social media attention it has garnered. To Prayut’s credit, he did send Deputy PM Thanasak Patimapragorn to Patong a few months later to assess the ongoing lifeguard crisis. At the end of the meeting, he assured lifeguards that help was on the way. “Make a list of what you need and send it to me.”

The ISLA, after consulting lifeguards and other stakeholders, duly sent a list to Bangkok along with an affordable, achievable plan to address Phuket’s drowning problem head-on. The plan included internationally recognised training, which ISLA has provided to 24 countries around the world for free, along with equipment, infrastructure and procedural improvements.

The goal was, and still is, to assist local lifeguards who are trained and ready to work, to create a unified, professional lifeguard force for the Island. Only then will the grisly drownings, jet-ski accidents, vessel sinkings with mass casualties, and snorkeling deaths begin to recede. Only then, will Phuket’s internationally infamous broken marine safety system begin to improve.

On behalf of Phuket’s struggling lifeguards, the ISLA is re-sending its urgent call.

Please help us. We need assistance immediately. Tourists are our livelihood, and they are drowning. And now we are in danger, too.

Daren Jenner

International Surf Lifesaving Association 

marine safety officer for Phuket

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