Swimming buoy upgrades continue amid injury concerns

Friday, 21 March 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 12 By  Warunya Thongrod and Veechan Souksi

Even as Pattaya continues to replace buoys marking swimming zones on area beaches, reports of injuries tied to the new floats are washing ashore.

The wide, red-and-white barriers replace round orange buoys that marked several locations along Pattaya and Jomtien beaches and have received generally positive reviews from both beach-goers and boat operators. But questions about the decision to use heavy-duty plastic used are increasing. Several people have been injured while walking on the wide and flat plastic never intended to be a dock.

Reporters peppered city hall spokespeople, city council members and Tourism Promotion Bureau executives with questions at a March 13 press conference, wanting to know whether the pontoons were tested before deployment, how they were paid for and whether the city council had even approved the plan.

The city is replacing the old, round buoys with stronger, wider buoys.The city is replacing the old, round buoys with stronger, wider buoys.

City officials, seemingly caught off guard, dodged most the questions, promising to deliver answers at the next, as-yet-unscheduled, press conference. However, City Councilman Rattanachai Sutidechanai confirmed the budget had come from the city’s “central fund” and that the council was aware of the buoy-replacement plan, even if it hadn’t signed off on the specific design.

Rattanachai said the council has ordered a re-examination of the design and materials used but, meanwhile, installation will continue on Jomtien and Wong Amat beaches.

According to the Sea Rescue Center at the Bali Hai Pier, one of six swimming areas on Jomtien have had their old round, rope-connected buoys replaced. Five are set for replacement on Wong Amat. In addition, city hall plans to cordon off two additional swimming areas on the Naklua beach.

The response from swimmers, so far, mostly has been positive.

“I bring my kids here everyday, now that these swimming barriers have been installed,” said 37-year-old Saruwan Somroop, a mother of two. “After all the accidents that happened over the past year, I would never let my kids play at the beach without my supervision. I have two sons ages 9 and 13. Now that these barriers are installed, I can sit and watch them from a distance without having to worry anymore.”

“Have there been accidents? Yes. But doesn’t that happen everywhere?” said Turkish tourist Emel Irdem. “Not to blame anybody, but people should be more careful and not ignore the designated swimming areas. The new swimming barriers are looking good and it gives the swimmers a warmer feeling to enjoy themselves without having to worry about the boats and jet skis coming in and running them over.”

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