As anyone who has lived in Phuket long enough already knows, another “accident” was inevitable. The only aspect that could not be foretold was the toll.
Phuket “marine safety officials” were warned not even two months ago when another boat collision off the east coast killed one boat captain and injured dozens of tourists.
In that collision, local officials took no corrective action because the person who died, Surat Mat-O-Sot, the 49-year-old captain of the tour boat “Choksuphasan 35”, was the one deemed solely responsible for the accident.
No one asked why Surat was still driving a boat full of tourists after he had already killed two Korean tourists and injured more than a dozen more in 2014 in the notorious capsizing when he bent over to pick up a black plastic bag that had blown into the cabin.
Of course this one incident is not alone. The ongoing procession of tour speedboat accidents is nearly an annual event. For some reason officials in Phuket have failed to understand that with such consistent failures of tour boat drivers and the deadly consequences the problem is not the driver. It is the system. That means all tour boat drivers are a risk.
All the talk about safety training means nothing when there are no consequences for not knowing safety laws and procedures – until it is too late. Officials who do not understand this should be removed from office immediately, but everyone knows that is not going to happen. Our previous Marine Office chief was just transferred to Ayutthaya after the Phoenix disaster killed 47 tourists in a single incident, Thailand’s worst maritime disaster in modern history, and our Marine chief before that was promoted to watch over river taxis on the outskirts of Bangkok.
There are no consequences for officials failing to perform their duties. The official report into the Phoenix disaster has never been made public.
The powers that be are happy to promote that they will pay victims’ hospital bills and even compensate grieving parents for their dead children, but the one thing they will never publicly promote is that the Royal Thai Government and its agencies and offices are each a juristic person and can be charged and sued just like anyone else. Maybe that’ll work.