CityNews – Last Tuesday February 23rd, at Chiang Mai City Hall, Chiang Mai Governor Pawin Chamniprasart summoned authorities from organisations involved, including Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Tourism and Sports, Chiang Mai Office of Public Works and Town & Country Planning, and The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Chiang Mai Office, to discuss how to penalise or punish tourist-related businesses where many tourists have had accidents, or even died.
After the meeting, the governor commanded Flying Squirrels, a company providing zipline services in Ban Pong Krai, Mae Rim’s Pong Yang sub-district, to be temporarily closed down for 15 days, from the day of announcement.
Flying Squirrels has seen many accidents involving zipline collisions, causing severe injuries as well as deaths. The latest accident happened a few weeks ago, and following an investigation, it was found that the accident occurred due to the carelessness of the company’s employees and not defective equipment as was initially claimed.
The governor has also commanded Grand Canyon in Hang Dong, which has seen several accidents, to be temporarily shut down.
The governor assigned a task force to examine other at-risk tourist places to ensure safety to tourists.
On February 25th, Grand Canyon’s owner Chatkrarin Trakulinsan, who is also the village headman of Hang Dong’s Nam Phrae sub-district led the press to examine the readiness of the security system (including life vests, swim rings, inflatable boats, and rafts, watchmen patrolling the premises at night) and introduced them to trained guards who facilitate tourists in the area. In spite of these precautions, complaints persist with many users of the canyon indicating that the use of life vests themselves are dangerous, as many visitors jump from boulders as high as 10 metres, and wearing life jackets is extremely dangerous when impacted with water.
The Grand Canyon has submitted documents asking Chiang Mai province to reduce the shut down time.
According to Chatkrarin, Grand Canyon has been professionally operated as of the 9th April 2015 when a security system was put in place — guards inspect in the area and warning signs were set up both in Thai and English. The Grand Canyon is not registered as a company or tourist destination as it does not meet guidelines for a tour operator. There is a coffee shop managed by Chatkarin and his family and certain safety measures provided, but apart from a 50 baht fee to enter the property, there are no other attractions or activities to sell to tourists.
“When a Korean tourist was found dead here in July 2013, we hadn’t yet managed the Grand Canyon. We owned it so we closed it. Yet tourists still came into the area. Later, we developed the area, building stalls and a security system. Since then no severe accidents have happened,” said Chatkrarin.
“I haven’t yet received any official documents [of the 15-day close down]. I have only heard news saying we were ordered to close down. Grand Canyon fully takes care of tourists’ safety. The province asked us to [temporarily] close down to make improvements to safety. Yet we have a good security system — inflatable boats, and rafts.”
Chatkrarin added that the launch of Grand Canyon has increased the standard of English language in the community as well as having brought in income into the local community. He also said that since April last year there have been no incidents reported at the location, there have been injuries by foreign tourists, but said that they understand that these were natural accidents that can happen in nature and no complaints have been filed.
Between 100-200 people visit the Grand Canyon on any given day.
While these are only the tip of the ice burg, as most incidents are not told to the press. Due to money changing hands or influence, Citylife has heard numerous reports of death and many at many of these attractions over the years but have been unable to receive an official confirmation. There have been a few incidents which did get reported on such as here and here.