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An attentive audience hears about the plan for controlling the ''mafia''

THE BIG CLEANUP Bangkok Intervenes

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

PHUKET: Police are to be brought from Bangkok in numbers and will be rotated every 15 days until the Phuket 'mafia' is under control, the Department of Special Investigations and the Tourism Minister declared today.

In the most convincing action yet, the intervention from Bangkok will begin within 15 days with the setting up of a ''Phuket Crime Crisis Centre'' staffed by Bangkok police who speak English.

The media - including about 30 journalists from Bangkok - was told at Phuket International Airport and again when local authorities met the team from Bangkok at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket City that the local police knew each other too well and so intervention from Bangkok was required.

The announcement today will be greeted with delight by many people on Phuket, where the power of the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers and their monopolies have begun to threaten the future of the tourism industry.

Heading the joint team making the announcement today were Tourism Minister Somsak Phurisisak and the Director of the DSI, Major General Tharit Pengprasert.

Phuket's Governor was believed to be in Bangkok.

Among the highlights:

..The Miinster ordered the airport management to sort out the taxi problem there. Too many tourists were subjected to abuse, sometimes kidnapped and taken places they didn't want to go, and subjected to acts of violence.

..The airport must find a place as an alternative to the crowded airport where people can check in. Airports of Thailand, usually slow to react, said ''We are looking at Tesco Lotus.''

..Social networks had spread news about Phuket's lack of controls. ''I have to answer to the foreign media and tourists and the constant question is, 'When are you going to fix the problem?' We have to do it now.''

.. Safety and security are important to everyone and the recent collective complaint by European Union ambassadors was a first-time for Thai tourism.

..''We will set up a Crime Crisis Centre to take care of tourists on Phuket. It will be established within 15 days. Pattaya will be the second centre.''

..The centre could be in Patong or Kata-Karon with another branch at the airport. Both would be manned by English-speaking police.

..''We will conduct research in France, where tourists are protected well, and rewrite the laws to make sure the tourists are protected under Thailand's laws.''

The DSI Director said:

..''I will oversee the Crime Crisis Centre. We will use the full options of law enforcement on Phuket. These problems have continued for a long time, and the problems are deep.''

..He said there was a Thai ''mafia group'' including taxis and tuk-tuks and also foreign gangs, especially among the Russians.

..Taxis operating outside resorts were especially bad, he said. ''How horrible is that, when some sick people could not be taken from a resort to hospital because of the drivers.''

..Foreigners who came to Phuket often ripped off each other. In other cases, the foreigners joined with Thais to execute the rip-offs.

..DSI investigators already knew of 15 ''groups'' operating on Phuket in suspicious ways, he said. ''These people are not scared of the law.''

..Law enforcement officers on Phuket were too friendly with each other to question each other's behavior, he said.

..People caught holding passports on Phuket - mostly motorcycle renters and jet-ski operators would be charged with an offence.

..Jet-skis should stop the rip-offs. He cited a case where 40,000 baht was demanded. The case was eventually settled for 5000 baht.

..''Jet-ski operators terrorise tourists on the beaches. We won't tolerate it.''

..Four sectors would be involved 1. DSI 2. local police 3. Phuket provincial officers 4. Tourism and Sport Ministry.

..Money-laundering was another of Phuket's problems and would be dealt with.

''We will get to the roots of the problem,'' he said. ''I want to send a strong message to people who use nominees, who are of bad behavior, 'Stop it.' Your time is up, In 15 days, we will be after you.''

The co-operation of the DSI was complete and ongoing, he said. ''We have to fix this problem. We will only see things grow worse otherwise.''

Sorting out the tourism industry's problems would be the gift of the DSI and other involved to Phuket, he said.

There were 13 foreign Phuket property holders who were being examined.

A Patong resort manager told Phuketwan today: ''We've had cancellations from tour groups because there have been so many complaints about tuk-tuks and taxis,''

At the end of today's meeting, Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin said she hoped that the word ''mafia'' would not continue to be used incorrectly about Phuket.

''Please avoid the mafia word,'' she said. ''It's not accurate and it will have an unfair effect on Phuket.''

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I like your phrase 'most convincing action yet'; it strikes a positive note & hope for the future. The Phuket Crime Crisis Centre needs to publicize a hotline number or numbers now that anyone can call.

Posted by Logic on July 25, 2013 12:30

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Tell the DSI, that, according to the editor of Phuketwan, there is no such thing as mafia in Phuket.

Posted by Charles on July 25, 2013 13:05

Editor Comment:

There is no such thing as the Mafia on Phuket. The word is misused by you and other no-hopers. ''Nothing will ever change.'' Wrong on both counts, Charles.

As the Vice Governor said today: ''Please avoid the mafia word. It's not accurate and it will have an unfair effect on Phuket.''

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at last we will see the problem solved... I LOVE THIS.

Posted by Frog on July 25, 2013 13:13

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I can reccomend everyone to read the article "Merit and Power in the Thai Social Order", published in American Anthropologist 6 (1962)!

The article is >50ys old - but it's still true today.

Posted by Martin on July 25, 2013 13:35

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From YOUR article Mr Ed 'The DS director said there was a Thai ''mafia group''. Therefore your comment to Charles- 'The word is misused by you and other no-hopers' would indicate that the DSI Director is also a no hoper! If the DSI Director has no hope of knowing what is going on here do you expect results?

Posted by Mister Ree on July 25, 2013 13:46

Editor Comment:

The DSI director and other Thais use the word ''mafia'' loosely and incorrectly, out of habit. They don't mix it up with the (terrorist killer) Mafia, as readers like Charles do. The difference between the DSI director and Charles is that Charles knows it's the wrong word yet continues to use it. When we catch up with the DSI director, we'll also let him know too, if the Vice Governor hasn't already done so.

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Definition of "Mafia" - 1.An organized international body of criminals, operating originally in Sicily and now esp. in Italy and the US.
2.Any similar group using extortion and other criminal methods.

That is exactly what they are number 2 fact is fact, quoted from Wikipedia. If Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin and others had earlier stopped this building people would not be using this word so much.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 25, 2013 14:05

Editor Comment:

The word is constantly misused and that's why we prefer ''monopoly'' when referring to the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers. Monopoly is accurate. Mafia is not accurate. Other dictionaries apply it to groups of people of all kinds, eg, the tennis players' ''mafia.'' Many readers form an inaccurate impression unless the right words are used. We are obliged, though, to quote others when they use it incorrectly.

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Ed, I think like myself most people think groups of people that have little respect for the law in order to charge high prices and knowingly engage in illegal activities are "mafia" which is exactly what these people are doing. The authorities don't want to use the word as it has a negative impact on Tourists well they should have thought of that before it got to this stage now the island of Phuket has a bad reputation partially because of modern technology like the internet, one scandal can be all over the world in 1 minute, but it is obvious many groups of people running scams this is what they are to most people, mafia. Anyway let's hope the DSI make some improvement. I only ever use one Taxi and he is very reliable, has a clean car with excellent aircon and does not charge above the "normal" high rate. I am planning a trip to Laos soon across the "Friendship Bridge" and what a pleasant surprise to read about the low taxi fares both on the Thai side and the Laos side.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 25, 2013 14:22

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I am more hopeful than ever that Phuket will finally have it's major problems rectified

Posted by Arthur on July 25, 2013 14:26

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Let us stop quibbling about the use or misuse of individual words & let us ALL unite for the common cause of stopping the people (call them what you like) that are wrecking this once beautiful island.

Posted by Logic on July 25, 2013 14:42

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Cosa Nostra translation our thing & the tuks tuks are sure doing there's but not for much longer by this very postive report, the shineing light in this report is the 15 day rotation to prevent cosy relationships and secret commission arrangements by corrupt individuals which would sabortage it from hour one, at last they are serious about the issues here!

Posted by slickmelb on July 25, 2013 16:05

Editor Comment:

And police, traumatised by what they hear, can return to Bangkok and sek counselling.

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"Foreigners who came to Phuket often ripped off each other. In other cases, the foreigners joined with Thais to execute the rip-offs." May be foreigners are behind tuk-tuk/taxi mafia?

Posted by Stranger on July 25, 2013 16:14

Editor Comment:

Guesswork. Extreme guesswork.

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Great news go get them lads, all of them high and low especially the high ones.

Posted by scunner on July 25, 2013 16:19

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Will there be any special no. to dial in case someone needs support with scams or gets in trouble with illegal taxis/tuktuks?

Posted by Jakub on July 25, 2013 16:42

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I am living in Phuket since 25 years. So, why it is so hard to beleive?

Posted by oops on July 25, 2013 17:32

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If these people (jet-ski boys, taxi, tuk-tuk drivers) call themselves "mafia" (I heard myself it from them many times), why anybody else should use another term?

Posted by Stranger on July 25, 2013 17:49

Editor Comment:

Because they're really just a small gang, not Mafia. If you call yourself a handsome hero, should we all agree?
Only if it's true.

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I like the idea of rotating police force.

Start with immediately removing all current Phuket police officers and replace them with staff from all around Thailand.

When you do not know the police officer, it will be a LOT more difficult to approach him with a bribe and equally difficult for the police to demand them when they don't know their counterpart either.

You might risk running into an honest and upstanding individual who would actually report such attempts.

Same should apply to all authorities on Phuket. We are in this mess because of their complacency, collusion and lack of moral backbone.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 25, 2013 17:52

Editor Comment:

The methodology for removing corruption is different. As you know, Phuketwan recommends turning Phuket into a corruption free island and then exporting the Phuket model to the rest of Thailand. Gathering police from other parts of Thailand would not end corruption. The Lee Kwan Yew system involves establishing a new generation of cleanskin officials, from scratch. This is not to say there aren't honest police in Thailand and even on Phuket, only that to beat corruption requires a ''start again'' approach, not a ''swap them for outsiders'' model.

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Ed, seeing you want to use the CORRECT words, as I have previously pointed out monopoly is wrong, the correct word is oligopoly, please correct you usage, or be accused of hypocrisy. I am pleased to see someone has also point out the "mafia" is correctly used by the rest of the world, but not acceptable by you, you are only one out of possibly millions, a lone voice not accepting the norm.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 25, 2013 17:53

Editor Comment:

When it comes to hypocrisy, you will always set new standards, Phuket_IOC. Why not stick with the topic. I have better things to do than spend 'Groundhog Day' with you.

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"
''Please avoid the mafia word,'' she said. ''It's not accurate and it will have an unfair effect on Phuket.'' "


No maffia? fix the problem instead of try to hide it!

Posted by Somjet on July 25, 2013 20:51

Editor Comment:

If Phuket had the Mafia, there would be no tourists. What Phuket has are greedy bands of like-minded individuals whose only concern is enriching themselves at the expense of others. But yes, you are right. The problem needs fixing.

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(moderated)

Posted by Doug on July 25, 2013 21:14

Editor Comment:

To respond in kind, only in Thailand would an anonymous contributor imagine that he could say whatever he likes, leaving others to take responsibility.

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"Editor Comment:

The word is constantly misused and that's why we prefer ''monopoly'' when referring to the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers."

An illegally operating monopoly that uses violence and intimidation to remove it's competition and is protected by corrupt officials is called a mafia in pretty much any country I can think of!

Posted by Bob on July 25, 2013 23:29

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i really like the sound of bangkok intervention. But they need to get some realistic pricing back on the island, starting with the tuk-tuks and taxis. But are they prepared to dictate lower rates? I don't think so.
They will hopefully restore some order in the anarchy, but there'll still be overpriced fares.
Until someone really gets to grips with the transport issues, the age-old problem of overcharging will continue.
All the other slimeball scammers are just following the bad example set by the tuk-tuk/taxi mob.
Give us a light railway. Stop land/beach encroachment, and reduce the power of those individuals who think they can control everything. We all know who they are!

Posted by jimbo on July 26, 2013 04:00

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Ed, groundhog day indeed, however, but I would remind YOU that it is YOU that creates the problem by NOT accepting correct, by the rest of the world, as defined by all English dictionaries, use of words, it is NOT me that is at fault, but you, all this will stop if you accept what is accepted by the rest of the English speaking world.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 26, 2013 06:04

Editor Comment:

We'd prefer to avoid confusion by avoiding words that are not specific. There is the Mafia, killers and cutthroats, and there is the ''mafia,'' which could mean a group of tennis players or a knitting circle. Readers will form different impressions, most of them false.

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If this is to have any impact at all the proposal from DSI will have to go on for a minimum of 1 year otherwise it will be a waste of time.

Posted by Dave W on July 26, 2013 06:05

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[quote]
...that the local police knew each other too well and so intervention from Bangkok was required.
[/quote]

That is a polite way of saying that the local police are corrupt... which of course everyone knows, but no-one has the guts to speak the truth.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on July 26, 2013 07:06

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I'm just afraid that they are trying to tackle too much at once. All the problems noted by many here and PW are multi-layered and will take a long time to sort out.

Just look at the transportation problem as an example. Too many tuk-tuks, no meters, government backed rates too high, under qualified drivers, regional monopolies, cannot pick up passengers in another region, no hop on / hop off buses looping around major beaches, no inter-beach buses, to name a few.

Many different issues here and different stakeholders trying to protect their fiefdoms. Some solutions may require changes to the law and / or full enforcement of existing laws. And a lot of "meetings" to kow tow to the local groups. This will all take a lot of time unfortunately.

It requires a guy like the Demolisher was for the property issues. That put his foot down. I don't think that is what's going to happen. Softly softly, slowly, slowly, and eventually BKK will get off our backs.

Let's see what happens. Fingers crossed.

Posted by GiantFan on July 26, 2013 08:33

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Ed, it seems to me that the only person confused with the word "mafia" is you, none of your readers seem to be, unless you consider them illiterate morons, along with all the Thais that use the word. If it is good enough for Thais to use, without you "correcting" them, sure we your readers should be grant the same privilege, or are we consider lesser beings. You still have not addressed the incorrect use of "monopoly" so I and your readers must assume you are incapable of admitting you may be wrong.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 26, 2013 09:44

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you should stop playing a drama queen and read what the Vice Governor said, Phuket_IOC. That makes at least two of us. Inappropriate use of the word ''Mafia'' confuses readers, exaggerates the scale of the island's problems and damages Phuket's reputation needlessly. It's an over-the-top statement, and a great word for headlines in newspapers aiming to entertain illiterate morons. Oligopoly doesn't have quite the same appeal. We aim to be both accurate and intelligible and stick with monopoly.

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The sooner the rest of us mortals in the world get around to your way of thinking the way you do regarding the word "mafia", the better and less tedious your comments will be. A 15 day rotation period for the police could mean they will get nothing done and will have no incentive to do anything. 3 months better?

Posted by USA on July 26, 2013 10:03

Editor Comment:

The reason for the rotations, or so we believe, USA, is so the police do their job without the time to establish connections to become corrupt. They will be carrying out the orders of higher-ups who will determine what they target. Then the police can go back to Bangkok and have trauma counselling.

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I am wondering what kind of more important meeting the Governor could have had in BKK than this one in Phuket? I feel he is "gone" somewhere else every time something important is happening here.

Posted by Chris on July 26, 2013 10:57

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Editor Comment:

"Because they're really just a small gang, not Mafia. If you call yourself a handsome hero, should we all agree?
Only if it's true."

Small gang? Have you been on Karon Beach when this "small gang" blocked the beach road and threaten to kill even some of policemen if they try to clean up?

Posted by Stranger on July 26, 2013 11:47

Editor Comment:

Actually two of our reporters were the, at a large blockade in January. One reporter was even mistaken for a Russian. She is still alive.
The Mafia were organised killers. I don't recollect the Mafia carrying out street blockades. That's something many monopolistic unions have done in other countries, but i don't think they were ever called ''mafia.''

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A great part of the reason for corruption in the Thai public sector is that higher positions in the sector are bought and sold and the only way they can get their "investment" back is to exploit the system and be open to corruption...the users of the system are aware of this and exploit it to their benefit .... this is also the reason why most Thais accept the present system as they are either involved as a receiver or payer of corruption or have close relatives that are. This is an 'evil' circle that is very difficult to break as if corruption suddenly stopped then a lot of people would sit back with a loss...the money they paid to get their position.

Posted by Sailor on July 26, 2013 12:33

Editor Comment:

That's the negative. The positive response is, as we've suggested, to establish a ''Phuket model'' that replicates the Singapore idea of starting from scratch with cleanskin officials. Phuket is ideal for this kind of innovation because it's international. Then the model can be exported to other provinces.

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It's time for the Airport-Kata-Karon Bus, roll on!

Posted by George on July 26, 2013 12:57

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Editor is right about the using of the word "M****" to call there "Gang" M**** is ignorant and even an insult to the Real M**** which originally was developed in sicilia hundreds of years ago to PROTECT its people though they were lacking of real police enforcement.. in Phuket we see the quite opposite .. M**iosos are extremely serious about keeping a low profile and focus on business. yes even illegal , thats why u people persist in keep on calling them "M****" ... According to Giovanni Falcone which lead the headhunting of the Sicilian M**** in the early 80s (rip) is The M**** the most effective state on the earth, do u think these Thugs you are so keen to upgrade to this status are that,? No. they are not discreet nor effective or sophisticate, they are neither well planned organized like that. the real m**** are surely businessman and focus on that, as they all say "its not personal, just business " They people u call M**** should only be callaed a gang off violent terrorist with only one target. -- using violent behavior against Tourists the gain as much cash as possible easiest way possible. are they successful , not very coz they ruin business for everyone else and will therefor be the target from the whole world and specially from Higher authorities in Their own country.. they are not a M**** only a Violent GANG that NEEDS to be PUT DOWN!!!

Posted by Frog on July 26, 2013 14:38

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Don't really understand why Singapore is being held up as an ideal, why don't try to replica real democracies like Denmark, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand that all consistently over a long period of time have been in the lead as the most corruption free communities...and hereto add that they are real democracies as well, Singapore is more like a small business oriented empire .

Posted by Sailor on July 26, 2013 14:38

Editor Comment:

It's how you get from being a corrupt country to a corruption-free country that's the issue. Those developed countries have no experience with endemic corruption. Singapore's example is appropriate and workable. The other nations you mention do not have traditions of corruption going back hundreds of years. Applying developed country notions to Thailand on virtually any issue is doomed to fail. Asia sets its own examples.

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Yes can we stop using the word m****, Its "gang related extortion" and "governmental related extortion" from here on in, hope that clears that up

Posted by Clive on July 26, 2013 15:05

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Frog, I believe you and Ed need to accept that the accepted term "m****," unless you both are prepared to take on all dictionaries, I suggest you both would FAIL in your quest. Accept what is fact and stop trying to change the world, you simply do NOT have enough support. I truly believe, going by PW's "Play of the day" Ed deliberately creates these situations simply to get a HIGHER hit on Alex.com, no other journalists question the use of the word "m****" or refuse to accept that "monopoly" is the wrong word.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 26, 2013 15:29

Editor Comment:

You are confused. Media organisations that use the word 'mafia' are seeking greater readership. We are intent on being fair, balanced and accurate. I don't have time for your lies, Phuket_IOC. Take your shoddy, second-rate mind elsewhere.

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@ phuket_IOC... U couldnt be more wrong. These Thugs, Gang without a strong intelligent leader are no more than Terrorist that ruin business for everyone.. In the real world where M...... are established they would not do so.. no one gains a living of this and its pointless business wise in they absolute nearest future. this is not organized or anything. u know so and everyone else also. u just wanna be seen in this forum and have not much to bring about the subject. this is TERRORISM nothing else.. get over it and add some knowledge which is important.. doesnt matter if everyone want to use the M word. its wrong. do ur homework. ..

Posted by Frog on July 26, 2013 16:20

Editor Comment:

Yes, Phuket_IOC, do your homework.

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Who is this idiot Mr Senior Staffer?
"Frog, I believe you and Ed need to accept that the accepted term "m****," unless you both are prepared to take on all dictionaries, I suggest you both would FAIL in your quest. Accept what is fact and stop trying to change the world, you simply do NOT have enough support. I truly believe, going by PW's "Play of the day" Ed deliberately creates these situations simply to get a HIGHER hit on Alex.com, no other journalists question the use of the word "m****" or refuse to accept that "monopoly" is the wrong word."
Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 26,2013 15:29
How dare he not follow your guidelines in "About Us" of "Readers can also add their own comments on every story. We are keen to hear what you have to say." :-o

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on July 26, 2013 16:50

Editor Comment:

We assumed when the guidelines were written that readers would be well-informed about events and have wisdom and information to impart.
In some cases, we were right. We just didn't anticipate you.

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Ed and Frog,I don't understand the stupidity of people who simply can not read a dictionary and accept the defined definition, can either of you say that all dictionaries are wrong and only you are right, by not accepting the truth then you are only showing your own ignorance and I for one do not know why you both show the world how idiotic your attitude is. Show me any dictionary that contradicts the established accepted definition, do that and I will apologise, I hope you two are man enough to do the same.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 26, 2013 17:47

Editor Comment:

Here you are again, Phuket_IOC, on your wild testosterone trip. You're assuming - which seems to be the course of action you prefer to attempting logical thought - that Frog and I are ''man enough.'' The deal with dictionaries is knowing how to apply the right word in the appropriate situation. Frog and I both say that Mafia is confusing in the Phuket context. The Vice Governor agrees. And do you know something, Phuket_IOC? She's a female.

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Whatever happened to Major General Chote Chawanwiwat "Behave or Else"....think he was from another part of Thailand.Wonder what the "else" was?
Arguing the semantics of names for gangs is really ......sigh!

Posted by David on July 27, 2013 06:55

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I know ,let's call all corrupt,criminal and bureaucratic activity "Disorganized Crime"
Great epithet encompassing every facet of life in LOS

Posted by david on July 27, 2013 08:28

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I really hope that DSI will be able to do there job but honestly how long it will last, it remember me the famous 30 Days Crackdown on crime in pattaya a short time ago. As you guess nothing change then.The key point is zero tolerance for guns and drugs and corruption. For sure it will never happen. I believe that in many country foreigners and locals don't mix well locals just demultiply the bad habit that they see in farrangs. And honestly young thai generations are just as bad as the youth from europe.

Posted by stephane on July 29, 2013 20:50

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... the police do their job without the time to establish connections to become corrupt." So now everyone knows how long "could" eventually take a thai police man (coming form BKK special department) to be corrupted: 16 days... really I'd like to know the time for normal policeman from Phuket...

Posted by dave on July 30, 2013 10:13

Editor Comment:

It's the standard kind of rotation period to maximise efficiency, dave. During the tsunami aftermath, investigating police from overseas were mostly rotated every 15-17 days. There was no suggestion they were being corrupted.

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i just read this today on the 11th of august 2013.. let's see what happens in a year's time.

Posted by Mr Bean on August 11, 2013 02:35


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