Details about the contract, signed off by much maligned PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin Patomwattanapong, are hard to come by, but it appears that it came into effect on Mar 1 and stipulated that the Bangkok consultancy, LP Laikhum Co Ltd, must have 98 lifeguards on patrol from Mar 1 to Sept 30.
But this requirement of the contract has already been broken – as of yet no legal lifeguards have been stationed on Phuket’s beaches. Apparently because the names of the 98 lifeguards to be employed have yet to be submitted for approval by the PPAO – another contract requirement.
On Mar 14, The Phuket News was made aware that Royal Thai Army soldiers were patrolling Kamala Beach requesting existing volunteer lifeguards to cease providing services as they were not employed by the new contract holder. Patong Beach volunteer lifeguards also said that they were unable to continue their work and confirmed that at present there are no officially sanctioned lifeguards patrolling any beaches in Phuket.
That such an appalling breach of the contract terms has already occurred, within weeks of it supposedly coming into effect, should immediately render this shady lifeguard contract legally null and void. The PPAO has a clear obligation, and the public has an overriding right, to demand transparency in the tender process for a service that can make the difference between life and death for those who use Phuket’s beaches.
We have not heard from Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong on these latest developments, but if he wants to stick by his guns and ensure that a sustainable solution to the lifeguard issue is found, he should scrap this current contract and work to find a financially sustainable long-term solution as soon as possible. Preferably without any input from the ineffective and belligerent PPAO Acting Chief Watcharin, who seems intent on sabotaging any effective solution in favour of arbitrary and opaque short-term band-aid solutions.
How many more people will die while this ridiculous saga plays out?