PHUKET: Patong Police tonight will marshall at the beach end of Bangla Rd before patrolling busy nightlife street to enforce the order for all people to wear face masks in public.
Patong Police from tonight (Jan 20) will crack down on ensuring tourists on Bangla Rd, Patong, are wearing face masks. Photo: PPHO / file
Patong Police Chief Col Sujin Nonbordee told The Phuket News today (Jan 20) that his officers tonight will only give warnings to those caught not wearing a face mask, or caught not wearing a face mask appropriately, while in public areas along Bangla Rd.
“At 6pm today police will gather in front of the Bangla police box and the order will be handed down officially for officers to take action regarding the issue of tourists not wearing masks,” he said.
“Today the order will be for public relations and admonishment,” Col Sujin confirmed.
“At this time, Patong Police have not received specific details about the extent of fines or post-arrest procedures,” Col Sujin added.
“The details will probably be clearer this evening at 6pm,” he said.
The move follows weeks of rising sentiment against tourists flouting the face mask rule in Phuket, with Governor Narong Woonciew already two weeks ago calling in consuls and honorary consuls in Phuket representing 22 countries to ask the envoys to inform their nationals of the COVID requirements in Phuket.
Matthew Barclay, the Australian Consul-General for Phuket and the neighbouring provinces, told The Phuket News, “As guests in Thailand, we expect Australians to follow the local rules and regulations. Particularly during the time of a global pandemic we would strongly encourage those who are travelling at this time to follow public health measures.
“We are always happy to amplify and disseminate information on new or changing regulations from local authorities when it is provided to us.”
However, so far since the meeting on Jan 7, no public notices from Phuket officials have been issued in any language other than Thai calling for people to specifically follow the face mask rule.
The push this week to ramp up efforts to get tourists to wear face masks gained momentum yesterday when Phuket Immigration Chief Col Thanet Sukchai announced on a Thai radio interview by Radio Thailand Phuket that sterner measures were forthcoming.
“The agency [Phuket Immigration] has received a lot of complaints about tourists not wearing masks over the phone. Drug stores are uncomfortable selling their products to tourists who don’t wear masks,” he said.
Col Thanet pointed out that the strategy to have tourists follow the COVID rules comprised two steps. The first was Governor Narong asking envoys in Phuket to ask their nationals to follow the COVID rules.
However, he added, “If there continues to be a violation of provincial measures, the next step will be an arrest and prosecution.”
Through a meeting with Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong on Tuesday (Jan 18), it was confirmed that any charges of breaking the COVID health measures will be enacted by the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office, Col Thanet said.
“We must set an example,” he warned.
During the meeting with the envoys on Jan 7, Governor Narong reminded the foreign delegates that the wearing of a face mask in all public areas is mandatory as per Phuket Provincial order 62/2564, which states whoever leaves their residence, buildings, or vehicles in order to enter into a public place must wear a mask or cloth mask at all times.
Failure to adhere to the above will result in legal penalties and could impact the decison to allow the foreign national to remain in Phuket, the Governor said.
Specifically, anyone violating the wearing of facemasks in public spaces rule can face up to two years in jail and/or a fine of up to B40,000, he added.
However, the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in late November confirmed that first time offences for not wearing a face mask in public areas is to be no more than B1,000.
The announcement followed concerns aired online after it was announced that the maximum fine for not wearing a mask in public areas was B20,000.
The announcement came during the CCSA press briefing on Nov 22.
Many foreign visitors were not wearing face masks and gathering in groups, said CCSA spokeswoman Dr Apisamai Srirangson.
Not wearing face masks while in public areas or when joining group activities was a violation of COVID-19 disease control regulations, she said.
Foreigners will be prosecuted if they fail to comply, she added.
Exactly what penalties will be levied in the current Phuket crackdown on wearing face masks in public has yet to be confirmed.
As for tourists leaving their hotel during the mandatory 10-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, Col Thanet yesterday confirmed that a hotel in one case had been fined for allowing the tourist to leave his room.
The hotel, not named, was fined B8,000 for allowing their guest “Mr Evans” to leave the hotel premises when he was required to remain in his hotel room during the 10-day period.
“I have proposed to Vice Governor Pichet that there may be activities organised for tourists who have to be detained or places that can take tourists to hang out to solve the problem of tourists sneaking out of the hotel,” Col Thanet said.
“It would be a better solution to have a backup plan for tourists who are stuck in quarantine after being diagnosed with infection,” he said.