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Pattaya Daily News

25 June 2008 :: 17:06:30 pm 6098

Time for Thailand to Act on Tourist Safety Concerns

In the incident of the two Chinese tourists who got into difficulties while swimming, earlier today, June 25, one of whom drowned, we at PDN have encountered nothing but evasion from those Thai people who were supposed to be taking care of the tour group, when we tried to investigate, to the degree that all the details are obscure.
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Some of the questions which we asked where why did the Thai tour guide not warn the Chinese lady not to go out of her depth, and not to swim alone, especially as he knew she was effectively a non-swimmer who had to wear a flotation device? Crucially, why did he not arrange for a lifeguard at least to be present in the bathing area? He had every right to request help, even that a sea rescue team should be present. This especially in an off-shore, island beach which almost certainly has dangerous undercurrents. Why did he not prepare adequately in advance?

When we tried to interview the tour guide this morning, he refused to answer the phone and beat a hasty retreat to his tour bus. In addition, the hotel was less than forthcoming and effectively attempted to cover up for them. Another question – why did the chief of the rescue service evade our interview and attempt to fob us off with a minion? And another, why did it take so long for the tour guide to notify the rescue services, who could perhaps have saved the male Chinese tour companion who came to the aid of the panicking Chinese female non-swimmer?

The tour agency, too, refused to answer the phone, even though we were persistent. One has to remember that these tour guides are supposedly government accredited, or at least by the TAT. The police, too, were not over-keen to divulge information, but perhaps this was understandable considering it is an ongoing investigation, which they don’t want to compromise.

Our reporter, too, was less than assiduous in gaining the facts, considering it too much trouble, to the degree we had to admonish him!

Our most significant question, though, is what can we do to help, to effectively warn the tourist? Do we go as far as to say don’t trust the tourist guides, or even the companies who employ them, this even though most are TAT accredited?

Perhaps if this was an isolated incident, we might gloss over it, but it’s not and international agencies and foreign governments don’t lack the courage to complain vehemently. Just look at the facts:

· Thailand is the most deadly destination for British holidaymakers, according to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
· It said that the figures, for April 2005 to March 2006 and released in British Behaviour Abroad, showed that “although Brits are getting more adventurous with their travels, they are not doing enough preparation before they go”.
· Spain, which attracts 14 million Britons a year, tops almost every category for holidaymakers in peril. But when the figures are adjusted to show the proportion of visitors affected, Thailand is the most dangerous .
· The 381,000 Britons who travelled to Thailand between 2005 and 2006 were nearly five times more likely to die than those visiting the second deadliest destination — India. Some 224 Britons died in Thailand.
· British visitors to the country were also 50 per cent more likely to be taken to hospital in Thailand than in second-placed Greece. The latest figures show that 233 were taken to hospital.
· Almost 900 Britons required serious assistance from a consulate in Thailand. That figure equates to 24 for every 10,000 visitors, double the rate for Australia.
· Travel agents say that the problems are a result of cheap flights and under-prepared travellers.

And we might add, insufficient responsibility being shown by the powers that be for those guests under their temporary care. In countries with a freer press, the media don’t hesitate to show their outrage – nor should we! It’s a sad fact, but if we, in Thailand, don’t get our act together and prevail upon the powers that be to tighten up safety regulations and severely curb the irresponsible attitudes of maverick tour operators and their associated minions, then tourists will vote with their feet – away from Thailand.

Warina Punyawan

Reporter : Sirithanon   Photo : Internet   Category : Editorial

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