Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thailand--Update: First Test-Case of Fast-Track Tourist Court, See Posting Dated May 17, 2013

According to http://www.phuketwan.com and as a follow-up to my detailed posting of May 17, 2013 entitled "Thailand: The Concept of Fast-Tracked "Tourist Courts" Will Never Become Reality," the deaths of two Chinese tourists killed in a negligent speedboat crash near Pattaya Beach on August 28, 2013, may very well determine whether the touted Tourist Court in Thailand will deliver on its promises.

Chinese nationals Dong Feiyue, 30, and Zhang Tao, 29, were killed when the speedboat in which they were riding crashed into another boat.

The driver of the speedboat, who was among eight people injured, has been charged with reckless behavior and remains in police custody.

Tourism and Sport Minister Somsak Pureesrisak appears to be determined to increase the responsibility of those involved in Thailand's tourism industry, especially at sea.

According to http://www.khaosod.co.th, a Thai language national newspaper, the Tourism and Sport Ministry has spent 14 million baht (US$436,000) on training Thai officials in France for the Tourism Court, which will open on December 5, His Majesty the King's birthday.

COMMENT: Concern has been mounting following a number of deaths and clear signs that speedboat ''captains'' operating in Thai coastal waters are "cowboy-ish," almost never adhere to international maritime "rules of the road," rarely have even a motorbike license let along a maritime license of any sort and often are teenagers or slightly older. 

From my experience after living in Thailand for some six years and spending a good bit of it on coastal waters, Thai officials of any sort seem largely unconcerned with what happens to foreigners in Thailand.

As in the case of roadway traffic enforcement, maritime enforcement is even more permissive and a scandal waiting to happen.

The truth be told, operators of any motor vehicle, on land or sea, is almost never held accountable for their actions, although the "captain" of the speedboat who killed two Chinese tourists has surprisingly been remanded into custody, a unique rarity.

On Phuket, another Chinese tourist was killed last year [2012] and three others injured when a careless ''captain'' towing a trailing banana boat crashed into the side of an anchored speedboat. The driver was fined and briefly suspended.

A Russian tourist narrowly escaped death when he dived under a speedboat at a Phuket beach and suffered a propeller slice to a leg. A Phuket marine official, who failed to even reprimand the speedboat captain, described such incidents as ''routine.'' 

I will observe very carefully the conduct of Thailand's first-ever "fast-track" tourist court and report the findings to our readers.

Again, it must be emphasized that the tourist court was a brain-child of the Tourism ministry and never had the motivated "buy-in" of Thai law enforcement.

Truly, I am hopeful that the tourist court is effective, yet the reality is that there is already far too much resistance to the concept within the Thai government itself, causing success to be very elusive. 

Even the Royal Thai Police nationwide see no incentive to work harder than they already are.