Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thailand: Foreign Tourists Continue to Perish at an Alarming Rate, Solutions Imperative

According to Phuket Wan, young Briton Jack Wilcox, 22, arrived in Phuket last year [2012], with the notion of supporting himself as an on-line poker player, given his incredible skills at the game, not to mention his ability to coach other players.

Tragically, though, an inquest in the UK revealed this week that after arriving in Phuket, the young Brit learned that he could rent a motorcycle from the countless rental kiosks that dot the beaches, even though he had never been on a motorcycle and in fact had never even driven a car and had no license to operate one.

Mr. Wilcox's, Angela, told the coroner: ''I think it is ridiculous that they [motorcycle rental companies] allowed someone who has never driven a motorbike or a car, had no UK driving permit and no road experience to rent a motorcycle.''

Sadly, on February 6, 2012, Wilcox struck a pole in southern Phuket, while riding his motorcycle, which ended his young and promising life.

Jack had also just graduated from Swansea University, having majored in business management.

COMMENT: Most of our regular readers know all too well that I have been urging, albeit unsuccessfully for several years on the Thai government's failure to acknowledge the large number of foreign tourists who have been maimed for life or killed because the Thai government has failed to crack down on the lack of effective traffic enforcement and the need for mafia-like motorcycle rental companies to be vigorously regulated.

My anecdotal estimate is that in recent years upwards of 200 tourists have had their lives either changed forever or ended as a result of the Thai government's ignoring the need to keep Thai roadways safe for both residents and tourists alike.

In the time that I have managed my daily blog, which is an extension of my 2008 book entitled, STAYING SAFE ABROAD: TRAVELING, WORKING AND LIVING IN A POST-9/11 WORLD, I have patiently listened to numerous foreign embassies in Bangkok have meeting after meeting with the Thai government, to no avail. 

It is time for action:

1. Institute penalties that require a valid foreign motorcycle license that has been valid for at least two years to even rent a two-wheeled, motorized vehicle;

2. Institute penalties for any two-wheeled, motor vehicle rental company that fails to comply with 1 above;

3. Deploy aggressive uniformed and plain-clothes police nationwide with the primary mission of enforcing traffic regulations and keeping the roads safe;

4. Review motor vehicle safety regulations and proscribe stiff penalties for all private and business operators who fail to comply with minimum safety standards; and 

5. Enact laws governing the rental of jet-skis and other water-craft by mafia-like kiosks to ensure that tourists are not victimized by operators who "invent" damages and extort money from tourists.

The one strategy that all foreign embassies possess is their ability to issue strongly-worded "travel warnings" designed to protect the interests of their citizens who travel to Thailand with the expectation of a safe return to their homeland.

The sad reality is that an increasing number of foreign tourists and travelers who visit Thailand return home in an airliner cargo hold, never to return.

Seemingly, it makes sense that the Tourism Authority of Thailand  would want foreign visitors to  have a safe visit, in the hope that they might return again and again, but many do not. 

One merely has to type in "Thailand" to search the 1,700+ postings I've filed in recent years to realize just how dangerous Thai tourism can be.

As a matter of interest, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, an Australian citizen dies in Thailand every four days on average.