Fresh from scolding Pattaya politicians for neglecting marine and tourist safety, the head of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association handed city officials a list of seven reforms he believes need to be made to prevent future accidents.
At the PBTA’s Nov. 14 meeting at the Grand Sole Hotel, President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn presented Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh with the group’s demands, ranging from drug tests for boat captains to safety training to directing regulatory agencies to take their jobs seriously.
“If Pattaya does not take safety seriously, the city will become just a place that, once upon a time, used to be visited by large number of tourists,” Sinchai said.
(L to R) Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho and Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, representing the government sector, accept the unsealed documents from PBTA President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn and PBTA consultant Sa-nga Kitsamret, representing the private sector, which is insisting the government implement effective safety measures.
The PBTA president has been the most outspoken critic of city and marine-safety officials, publicly rebuking Pattaya’s politicians and top regulators to their faces at the Nov. 4 hearing called after seven tourists were killed in the latest in a string of marine accidents. In 2013 alone, 11 tourists have been killed and dozens injured in more than a half-dozen boat-related tragedies.
“It is time for the government to take this matter seriously by implementing and enforcing laws on operators,” Sinchai said at that hearing. “The blame cannot be laid just on boat operators because the officers directly responsible neglected their duties and did not exert serious control to inspect and regulate. The city has sat idle.”
The PBTA’s list of demands includes directing relevant public agencies to “to work seriously and continuously” to improve safety and not shirk responsibility by claiming other agencies are responsible.
The association also wants to see drug tests for boat crews. The captain of the Koh Larn Travel 1, which capsized off Koh Larn Nov. 3, admitted he was high on methamphetamines at the time of the accident.
Other demands included increasing the budget for safety training and inspection, more safety training, and forcing the Pattaya Marine Department to actually check all vessels for safety equipment, passenger loads, licenses and seaworthiness. The ill-fated ferry not only left port 30 percent overcrowded, but lacked the required number of life vests.
Finally, the PBTA wants the government to check insurance coverage of boat operators to be sure that, if an accident occurs, fair and sufficient compensation actually can be made. In this month’s accident, the families of each of the seven dead tourists are to receive only 300,000 baht. The families of two Chinese tourists killed in an earlier accident got 2.3 million baht each, nearly 75 percent less than they sued for.