Tourists who have stayed in a boutique hotel in Phuket and swam around the island have bumped into the island’s lifeguards, provided by the Phuket Lifeguard Service, who are under contract with the Phuket provincial government.
However, their contract has recently expired, on November 1, 2018 at Patong Beach, which was the last beach under their supervision. Phuket Lifeguard Service posted on their Facebook page about the matter.
Phuket’s outgoing Governor Norraphat Plodthong, who recently finished his tenure on the island back on the 30th of September, passed the responsibility of issuing contracts for lifeguard services for the island from the Phuket Provincial government, down to the local Thesabans. Each local municipality will now be handling the contracting of lifeguards for patrolling the beaches in their jurisdiction, which means that people who stay in one boutique hotel in Phuket will see different lifeguards from those in other places.
The new tenders led to some turmoil along the western coastlines of Phuket, with several volunteers, paid life-savers, and ‘locals’, both trained and untrained, donning the red and yellow lifeguard outfits to patrol the island’s beaches.
This turmoil resulted in several stories of drowning incidents by local news sites, which some see as proof of the new systems ineffectiveness with providing Phuket a professional level of international-standard lifeguarding. This issue needs addressing, as the islands sees an increasing amount of tourist arrivals annually, particularly during the traditional wet-season.
Managing Director Vitanya Chuayuan, Phuket Lifeguard Service, says that it was sad for the company, to see the standard of lifeguarding on the island, which they had managed and improved for nearly a decade, decline to bureaucratic turmoil, alongside the island’s beach patrol system.
She says that she has not yet spoken to the new Governor about the issue, but she saw that the old governor believes that giving the funding for lifeguarding to the Thesabans and letting them handle it would be better. Vitanya adds that the budget for lifeguarding went down year after year, and, while they tried to maintain and improve the standard of the island’s lifeguards, they ended up unable to match the lower tenders for the contracts.
Vitanya believes that a single company providing lifeguarding across all of Phuket’s beaches is a better system, with better amortisation of costs, improved training, as well as the sharing of local knowledge on the island.