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New Tourism Minister Somsak Pureesrisak: He has been assessing Phuket's needs and now the Big Cleanup is set to begin from next week

THE BIG CLEANUP Bangkok to Tame Tuk-Tuks, Taxis, Scams, Rip-Offs as DSI Intervenes on Phuket

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
PHUKET: The big cleanup of Phuket is about to begin, sources in Bangkok and on Phuket confirmed to Phuketwan today, with the national government's welcome intervention coming at long last.

Official action is expected to target crimes, scams, rip-offs, taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia'' and all the other issues that tourists have been complaining about on Phuket for years.

It's the first sign of a reaction from Thai authorities to tourists' complaints highlighted by the Chinese Ambassador, Guan Mu, and European Union ambassadors in recent meetings on Phuket.

Data about taxis and tuk-tuk numbers is being passed to the Department of Special Investigation, Phuketwan has learned.

The DSI held top-level talks with the Minister of Tourism and Sport, Somsak Pureesrisak yesterday.

More talks were being held today as the size and scale of the reaction to the big-picture issues became evident.

''This will be the real kick-off,'' The Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand on Phuket, Chanchai Duangchit, told Phuketwan today. ''It's very good news.''

Sources among the Bangkok diplomatic community are also reacting with glee at what appears to be an earnest reaction by Bangkok to Phuket's needs.

''This is great news,'' Khun Chanchai said. ''It's good for Phuket. ''The Ministry of Tourism and Sport is actually trying to fix the problems.

''If the problems had been left any longer, Phuket's future would have suffered.''

Other sources confirmed that the overhaul of Phuket tourism will begin on July 25 - and will continue for some time.

Some news sources have focussed on DSI attention to Russian and Korean ''mafia'' but Phuketwan has learned that the crackdown will be widespread and address all the issues raised by the ambassadors.

Information about Phuket's tuk-tuks and taxis - which have a monopoly on Phuket and are the source of most tourist complaints - has been specifically requested by the DSI.

The Chinese ambassador was scathing about corrupt police and immigration officials when he met Phuket authorities while the EU ambassadors issued a statement listing their seven major issues.

Since his recent appointment, the minister has made at least two visits to Phuket and he appears to be in total agreement with the ambassadors about the need for action.

Khun Chanchai said today that the introduction of a special court for tourists would also be part of the project.

Crimes of violence involving tourists are to be the subject of a special study, he said, with the intention of developing a ''Phuket model'' that can quickly be applied to Pattaya and other destinations in Thailand.

Phuketwan understands that the Prime Minister and Phuket's Governor are meeting ambassadors from Thailand's Asian neighbors today.

European Union Ambassadors' List of Seven Phuket Needs


.. An efficient and fairly priced public transport system in Phuket which is available to foreign tourists and residents alike.

.. An end to intimidatory and violent behavior by an element of tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.

.. Strict enforcement of marine safety standards, including flags on beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim.

.. Strict enforcement of standards of behavior for public officials, including police and Immigration, to ensure that foreign visitors and residents feel protected, treated in a fair way and never at risk of extortion.

.. An end to scams involving hiring of equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes.

.. Strict enforcement of road safety regulations.

.. Promotion of environmental issues, including monitoring of water quality.


Minister for Tourism and Sport's 13 Topics


.. Increasing airport arrivals, poor infrastructure

.. Traffic

.. No controlling strategy, development occurring all over

.. Environmental degradation

.. Attacks on beaches and public land

.. Garbage mounting

.. Bad water

.. Tourists' and residents' safety and security

.. Rip-offs (timeshare touts etc.)

.. Tour guides

.. Authorities at odds with private sector

.. Taxis and jet-skis

.. Zero baht tours


Phuketwan's List


Corruption Start a well-promoted public campaign to end corruption on the island and prosecute any official caught taking bribes. Investigate all allegations about Immigration officers and police. Create a corruption-free Phuket model for other provinces.

Sustainability Begin an investigation into what's required to keep Phuket a natural and appealing destination and set limits on development and tourist numbers based on the results of that investigation. Save the reefs and the beaches. Create a Phuket Beach Authority.

Transport Require all tuk-tuk and taxi drivers to register again and to meet international standards of service before being given new licences. Reduce their numbers by 10 percent a year for three years, offering alternative training. Introduce a call centre and abolish double-payment for journeys passengers don't make.

Crime Provide an extra 500 police for Phuket based on its actual population. Take up the Australian ambassador's suggestion of obliterating all illegal weapons and make the island a no-guns, no-knives zone.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Good, then, apply also fast the projected Phuket model to Ko Lanta, as tuk tuk prices are sometimes rocketing, and garbage mounting, dirty muddy roads, and not to forget.... the huge Coal Plant Project that Phuket didn't want, Krabi area also wants to avoid it ...

Posted by serge on July 17, 2013 12:19

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As a Patong resident, I'm looking forward to these changes, hopefully leading to improvements in quality of life.
Let's see, and good luck!

Posted by w on July 17, 2013 12:25

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impossible to see some improvement in this decade.. Only when Thais have hurt in the pocket will really try to do sometingh.. for the rest is only bbla bla bla to make someone happy...

Posted by dave on July 17, 2013 12:33

Editor Comment:

Bangkok finally reacts, and you still insist on being ''Doomy Dave.'' How long is it since you heard the birds singing and noticed the sun is shining?

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After a decade of all talk, no action, I will believe this when I see it.

Not being negative, just realistic.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 17, 2013 12:49

Editor Comment:

Please change your moniker to 'DoubtingMike.'

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Constant talk and rhetoric but no action. Did Bangkok implement a timeline for practical action? They are simply appeasing the international backlash

Posted by Damien Takac on July 17, 2013 12:52

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I am cautiously optimistic. Whether the buses run all the way to Kata by the end of next week will be a strong indicator of whether this is serious or just more PR.

Posted by nomadjoe on July 17, 2013 12:58

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At long last we hear that something "should" finally be done, how ever, the "proof is in the pudding," it can only be successful if corruption is followed through to the HIGHEST levels, this is the only way to eradicate it, otherwise it will return. All those involved in any form of scams, violence and corruption MUST be made to fear the law and its consequences, no pardons, no moving to other areas, NO CHANCE to ESCAPE justice. Dave, if "Bangkok" does the right thing then we should see a lot of new faces, in brown< from low ranks to high ranks, we should see new faces in many government departments and hopefully a new dedicated, hard working Governor... OH, and we should see a lot of new faces in jail(gaol), with 7 years left in this decade, this could change.. oops, am I becoming an optimist.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 17, 2013 13:05

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Great news, if there is any request for support from the local community, I will gladly report all places with illegal TukTuks and Taxis in my area (Kata/Karon).

Posted by Jakub on July 17, 2013 13:46

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I am optimistic considering that the Chinese ambassador got involved. Big and growing market for tourism world wide.
If this leads to action and improvements on the beautiful island of Phuket I will dance down Bangla Road on my next visit.

Posted by Arthur on July 17, 2013 13:47

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Wishfull thinking, but there seems to be an open door for changes. A very Good Luck from me.

Posted by Hans on July 17, 2013 13:56

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Anyone ever noticed the lack of CCTV cameras in the immigration office...and other government office? If they were to be installed, it would make for great viewing.

Posted by agogohome on July 17, 2013 14:15

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According to other newspapers, the Department of Consular Affairs and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) will visit illegal operators including 1,000 tour companies run by foreigners with Thai proxies in Phuket on July 25 to revoke their visas and seize their asset if proved they are illegal.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on July 17, 2013 14:24

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Good of PW to report this at least there is talk at a senior level, Ed, ThaiMike I think noting will happen as many of us who have been here a long time have often heard talk but no action from many sources. The majority of Thais will think as the money is coming in why change things. Does anyone really think they care about tourists, of course not what they care about is the tourist's money.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 17, 2013 14:36

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If this initiative from Bangkok fails for the same reasons (all talk, no action), then we truly have reached the end of the road.
Changes will come, or, everyone will know for 100% that nothing will ever change.

I'm hopeful, but true to type, pessimistic. I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by sir burr on July 17, 2013 14:59

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i think i heard this for the last 6 years i been living here..
cleanup for 2 weeks then back to "normal" again, sorry you need to switch out all goverment,police,immigration people down here to do anything..

Posted by Jon on July 17, 2013 15:08

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"Official action is expected to target crimes, scams, rip-offs, taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia''

Hmmm- I thought PW consistently (and vehemently)denied the presence of an 'mafias' on Phuket. Is the 'M' word now acceptable and are you changing your tune to reflect the reality of these 'cartels'?

Posted by Mister Ree on July 17, 2013 15:08

Editor Comment:

monopoly is the word you are seeking. The misuse of 'mafia' is widespread.

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Great article - well written - exciting content. As far as I can remember, going back 18 years, this is the first time the Bangkok authorities have shown such an interest? Hope for the future of Phuket at last.

Posted by Logic on July 17, 2013 16:37

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Monopoly is the right word, but the means to retain that monopoly becomes mafia..

Posted by All good on July 17, 2013 16:51

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We can only hope....too long waiting with only talk and no action.

Posted by Anonymous on July 17, 2013 17:39

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You can bet that if BKK does succeed in "cleaning up" Phuket, it'll be dirtier than ever within a month after they leave.

Posted by Anonymous on July 17, 2013 18:14

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Lots of blah blah blah, lets see if Bangkok has the stomach for a fight.
I'm betting against.
Thai politicians are massive under achievers, just good at blowing hot air.

Posted by Doubting Jimbo on July 17, 2013 19:18

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After living here for 8 years and seen how the wheels in the higher levels of corruption turn, I am joining the doubters too. I have seen how the politicians hot air has only added to global warming and nothing has improved here, only putrefied over the last four years, in the fight against crimes, scams, rip-offs, taxi and tuk-tuk eM's. When I see the corrupt politicians and officials being put behind jail cell bars, then and only then will I believe Bangkok is serious. Until then, I am with the doubters and realists here.

Posted by Doubting DunB on July 17, 2013 20:36

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@ All good, touch??.

Posted by Robin on July 17, 2013 20:40

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Thursday and Friday next week. Always great to get information in advance!

Posted by Harald on July 17, 2013 20:48

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Bangkok finally doing something? Where do people think the money from Phuket goes? Some go to some powers that be in Phuket, but a lot of it goes to their controllers in BKK.

All the meetings and talks over the past decade... will something be done? We will all wait and see

Posted by Tbs on July 17, 2013 23:33

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Hmm..more meetings and rhetoric...no timeline,no strategy no tactics.
So BKK has made a statement,although being aware of problems since whenever.
BKK pays officials to do their job in Phuket..they ain't done it....perhaps this is where the cleanup should begin.

Posted by david on July 18, 2013 08:34

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Can someone explain the logic why the crackdown is announced in advance and is excactly lasting 2 days. But its a great start. So lets continue to complain at all levels. For all Germany speakers, in the last issue of the German Weekly Der Stern, there is a very critical and good article about the Phuket Mafia, surly will ruffle some feathers.
wm

Posted by wm on July 18, 2013 10:01

Editor Comment:

Phuketwan carried a reasonably complete translation of the Der Stern article earlier this week. The claim that the coming ''crackdown'' will last two days comes from other sources, not Phuketwan. Your question is more appropriately directed at the other sources. We understand it's a campaign, not a ''crackdown.''

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Tuk Tuks and Jetski cons are not the problem. Graft and apathy is the problem.
Solve that and many issues would go away?

Posted by david on July 18, 2013 12:05


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