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There is no evidence that the powers that be in Phuket are taking any steps to rein in the activities of the island’s jet-ski mafia, Britain’s Honorary Consul, Martin Carpenter, said yesterday evening (November 21).
Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce forum at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket, held to discuss marine tourism, Mr Carpenter said, “There is no current evidence that anybody in the government sector here really is taking this issue as seriously as many people want them to take it.”
He said that he had sat in meetings between honorary consuls and provincial governors for six years and the problems of jet-ski rip-offs, extortion and dangerous behaviour had been discussed many times, but that nothing significant had been done.
Saying, “I do hope that somebody makes notes, and I’m quite happy for you to write what I’m saying now.”
Speaking to The Phuket News afterwards, he explained, “I’ve tried to get the problem addressed through the proper channels but with no results so now I’m trying a different approach to get someone’s attention.”
Larry Cunningham, former Australian Honorary Consul, and his German counterpart Dirk Naumann – now both retired – were both forthright about jet-skis, making extortion in particular a major issue during their tenures, but little was done.
Insurance to cover minor damage to jet-skis inflicted by tourists was introduced but tourists are ften unaware off it, and are still frequently bullied into paying hundreds of thousands of baht to repair minor scratches that in many cases already existed before they rented the machine.
Cunningham was so vocal that jet-ski operators would halve their demands if the tourists agreed not to get him involved. But the practice continues.
Jet-ski operators and staff have also been accused of driving machines dangerously, ploughing through swimming areas, endangering swimmers including children.
And, after being told to take their sales stands and trailers off Phuket’s beaches as part of the Army-backed expulsion of commerce from the beaches, the jet-skis are now returning, apparently with no sanctions from local authorities or the Marine Department.
The department’s chief, Phuriphat Teerakulpisut, recently threatened to ban jet-skis if there were any more dangerous incidents but has taken no action so far to back up his words.
A Russian tourist died on November 3 after crashing his rented jet-ski off Patong Beach.