Thailand Boat Explosion: Safety of boat tours questioned after engine explodes
2018-01-18 14:09:00

Police in Thailand say they're trying to ensure the safety of boat tours after an explosion off the coast of Phi Phi Island at the weekend. The engine of a tour boat carrying 26 Chinese tourists exploded, seriously injuring the crew and several tourists. The exact cause of the incident is not yet known. Thailand has a poor record when it comes to ensuring the safety of tourists off its coast, as Tony Cheng reports.

A column of smoke rises from a burning speedboat off Phi Phi Island. The boat, which had been carrying 26 Chinese tourists on a day trip, burst into flames as the captain started the engine. The injured ferried back to the mainland in tour boats. Several with severe burns from the explosion. No fatalities, but for the tourists, a far cry from the paradise they were expecting to visit.

MA CUIHONG DIRECTOR, PHUKET CONSULAR OFFICE "According to confirmation from three hospitals, the five severely injured tourists are in a stable condition without life-threating injuries."

Sadly incidents like this are all too common.Often tours are taken in boats that are poorly serviced, by unlicensed operators in waters that are overcrowded and badly managed. At the headquarters of Thailand Tourist Police, the latest accident was top of the agenda for the daily nationwide conference call. Although the investigation is still ongoing, the police say efforts are underway to ensure tourists are as safe as possible. But while regular checks should be taking place, the Police are powerless to do anything until an accident has actually happened.

MAJOR GENERAL KATCHA THARTSART DEPUTY COMMISSIONER TOURIST POLICE "We don't have the power to check the boats, speedboats like this, or equipment like this. We have to ask for them to do the right thing."

That isn't very reassuring, but modern regulations and licensing are hard to enforce in a country that's relied on water-borne transport for so long.

TONY CHENG BANGKOK "Traveling by boat is a fundamental fact of life in Thailand, not just for tourists, but for ordinary Thais who use it as an everyday means of transport, but with so much traffic on the waterways, accidents unfortunately are all too common."

Unfortunately Chinese tourists are particularly at risk, because they are now arriving in such large numbers, that's pushing the Thai tourist industry to the limits of its capabilities.

CHANAPAN KAEWKLACHAIYAWUTH, SECRETARY-GENERAL THAI-CHINESE TOURISM ALLIANCE ASSOCIATION "I think the authorities have done their job, but the number of tourists has doubled or tripled and they're trying to improve safety but sometimes can't keep up."

But despite the dangers, few are likely to be deterred. This remains some of the most beautiful unspoilt coastline in the world, and a visit to Thailand would not be complete without a trip to the beach, Tony Cheng, CGTN, Bangkok.

Source:CGTN Editor:Hiram