Sadly, it seems as though many of the measures employed by the local government are merely window dressing that do little to address the root causes of these problems. For example Phuket Provincial Police commander Maj Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen recently assured Ma Cuihong, the Deputy Consul-General of the Chinese Consulate-General in Songkhla, that Chinese-language advertising boards, warning signs, guide books were being put in place across the island and that stricter control measures on vehicle rentals have been put in place.
While a necessary measure in any program aimed at reducing tourists deaths and injuries, such warning signs put the onus back on to the tourists and do nothing to improve the general safety standards in the tourism industry. Readers will no doubt remember that there are still no lifeguards stationed on many of the island’s most popular beaches – a situation the government seems unable or unwilling to address.
This fact is surely a major threat to the safety of tourists as we come into the monsoon season of rough seas and the inevitable increase in drowning deaths that accompanies it. Putting up a few more warning sign will have much less effect than, say, ensuring that beaches are patrolled by lifeguards.
The Dutch Ambassador to Thailand Kees Pieter Rade last Thursday (June 7) met with Phuket Vice Governor Thawornwat Kongkaew to raise his concerns about road safety in Phuket. The vice governor assured him that police are strictly enforcing penalties on tourists who do not have a valid license to ride their hired motorbike.
He also said that rental companies would be under scrutiny for renting bikes to unlicensed tourists. Again, even if they were actively enforced (which is somewhat doubtful) the actions avoid addressing the root causes poor road safety.
It’s time for the government to stop window dressing these serious issues and begin to create effective policies that target their systemic causes. Sure, it is much more difficult to do this, but with greater effort comes greater reward.