Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak met May 16 with Chonburi Deputy Gov. Adisak Thepass, Pattaya Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, Tourist Police Commander Lt. Col. Arun Promphan, and Marine Department Region 6 Director Raewat Potriang to review improved safety plans he demanded after the April 21 collision of two speedboats off Koh Larn’s Tawaen Beach that injured 18 tourists and two guides. One tourist lost half his leg while another’s leg was nearly severed.
Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak replies to questions asked by Pattaya media.
Fueled by passionate criticism from victims about slow response and low safety standards, the incident became worldwide news with Somsak saying the accident already has damaged the tourist industry.
The plans call for integration of the Royal Thai Police, Marine Police, Tourism Authority of Thailand, civil defense volunteers and city hall.
After reviewing the plans, Somsak directed the Marine Department within three weeks to draft legislative language to require speedboats to be equipped with GPS transceivers and for boat operators be mandated to carry insurance covering damage and injuries. He also requested an estimate of how much additional staff and funds the Marine Department needs to quickly and competently respond to accidents.
“After listening to the safety measures to assist tourists, I believe that these are measures we can take but there are no laws currently on the books to require installation of GPS or additional insurance,” Somsak said. “Therefore, I have ordered the Marine Department to draft language to serve as the basis of laws allowing the Marine Department to distribute its power to other local administration organizations or the provincial governor in order for officers to offer help.”
The minister said he hoped that, if the safety measures are implemented, Pattaya and Chonburi would become a model for other coastal tourist destinations to follow.
Somsak noted, however, that in addition to new laws, additional funding would be needed for the GPS-based navigation system and extra staff. He plans to bring a budget request to the Cabinet for consideration.
In the interim, the Royal Thai Police later this year will open a police station on Koh Larn to better serve tourists. The station still requires approval and a budget from the Tourism and Sports Ministry.