The International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) is requesting for the US State Department to issue a level three travel advisory warning of the “extreme danger” in waters surrounding Phuket, according to a report by The Phuket News.
A level three advisory cautions travellers to avoid travel due to “serious risks to safety and security”.
Factors considered in ISLA’s decision include “the global drowning epidemic”, the south-west monsoon in May that makes Phuket’s waters dangerous and the fact that hundreds have drowned in the waters in the past decade.
Moreover, ISLA pointed out that the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO) does not provide professional ocean lifeguard service despite collecting money form US citizens for the service in the form of a hotel tax.
Quoting an ISLA resolution, The Phuket News reported: “ISLA requests that this level three travel advisory remain in place until the existing internationally certified lifeguard force is fully funded, operational, and able to provide lifeguard services that meet international standards.”
The Phuket News also understood from Daren Jenner, ISLA’s warrant marine safety officer – Phuket specialist, of the controversy surrounding PPAO’s “quick and quiet” awarding of a 13 million baht contract to Laikhum to provide 98 lifeguards on the destination’s beaches from March 1 through September 30, announced only on February 28.
Laikhum has yet to post any lifeguards at any Phuket beaches. Under the contract, the company cannot do so until it has provided a list of names of the lifeguards it will hire to the PPAO for approval.
Update [March 27, 14.30]: The original article was updated to correctly reflect the value of the contract awarded to Laikhum.