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LIVE UPDATE: 'No More Tuk-Tuks on Phuket'

Monday, May 24, 2010
Today's Updating Report

This LIVE updating report is coming from the second meeting between Phuket key honorary consuls and Phuket's leaders.It's being held at Provincial Hall in Phuket City and most of Phuket's key authorities are represented. Refresh/reload for updates.

THE GOVERNOR is unavoidably caught up with a video conference with other governors.

The first question is from Germany's honorary consul, Dirk Naumann, who says his ambassador is keen to know what has happened about transport, especially the tuk-tuks which ''blatantly overcharge and frighten'' tourists.

The Vice Governor says police and local authorities have met with drivers to discuss these issues. Police have issued warnings to motorcycle riders regarding helmets.

The issue is now being pursued by the Department of Transport. A police spokesman adds that as far the tuk-tuk drivers, all operators have been told to comply with the laws. There has been a decrease but problems continue in Kata and Karon. If tourists are unhappy with prices, problems may arise.

The tourist police say they have held meetings with general managers of resorts and will structure a call centre for Patong so that the issues of taxis competing for tourists can be avoided. Tourist police are meeting in Kamala tomorrow to set up a similar call centre system.

Mr Naumann asks: how much is the tuk-tuk driver charged by the company that rents the tuk-tuk? He says new taxis with aircon rent for 1000 baht in Bangkok, and 800 baht if it is over a year old. The embassy in Bangkok has been told by Bangkok companies that a tuk-tuk would be worth 300 baht.

Mr Naumann asks whether it's possible that Phuket's tuk-tuk rental companies overcharge the tuk-tuk drivers.

Vice Governor Smit Parawatwichai refers the question to the Transport Department representative. He says normally for taxis and tuk-tuks there is no rental fee but a permit fee, which is 1500 baht for a five year permit. However, owners may sub-let their vehicles to drivers and ''nobody knows what the exact price is.''

The Vice Governor says he is hopeful the issue will be dealt with by the introduction of meters. Local owners ''have agreed to resolving the issue. In the future, this problem should be dealt with.''

Czech honorary consul Anurak Tansiriroj asks the next question.

The Vice Governor says prices have already been sorted in Patong and standard prices will be made public soon.

The secretary to the Austrian honorary consul, Bhuritt Masswongsa, asks the next question.

The Transport representative responds by saying there will be three kinds of public transport on Phuket, the tuk-tuks, fares based on agreement, the taxis, where metres have to be used by law but the law has not been enforced, and limousines, where a meeting will soon decide prices.

Discussions have taken place with questions asked about standard prices.

The honorary consul of Norway, Pornphan Sittichaivijit, says that police still fail to inform embassies or honorary consuls about all cases involving citizens of overseas nations. She instances one case involving a Norwegian.

Tourist Police representative Lieutenant Colonel Ekachai Pramanakul responds. Then a police representative reveals that 84 cases involving tourists have been reported so far this year. There have been 33 deaths. There have been 20 cases involving attacks, from rape to petty crime.

Britain's honorary consul Martin Carpenter says he has been living on Phuket for 18 years and has been surprised at the number of tuk-tuks increasing so greatly. He says it's important to know how many tuk-tuk drivers there are on the island because some tuk-tuk drivers are spending too much time on their businesses.

The Transport representative says there are 1130 tuk-tuks on the island and the number is unlikely to increase.

Mr Naumann makes the point that deaths are being reported, but not arrests and accidents.

Police representatives say when there are deaths, embassies are usually told directly. All police stations will be asked to report all cases to embassies, not just deaths.

The deputy honorary Russian consul Santi Udomkiratak asked for details of the reporting system. He said the police station chiefs met every day and could report cases immediately.

Dr Sirichai Sinlapa-Acha of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce suggested that police be issue with a pocketbook containing the numbers of all honorary consuls and embassies.

The tourist police representative suggested an sms direct, then a call back later if it happened to be a weekend or a holiday.

Police will instruct all officers once again to inform honorary consuls and embassies. Police will be told to send sms messages as soon as possible, then follow up with a full report.

Paiboon Upatising, chief executive of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, said that he was keen to generate support to help Phuket's tourism recover.

Khun Paiboon said the meeting was a welcome forum, and he wanted to find ways to better coordinate and convey messages that Phuket is still a safe place. What could the honorary consuls do to help? ''We would like to work together and make the world aware that Phuket is still an attractive destination for tourists,'' he said.

Mr Naumann said Germany had quite deliberately excluded Phuket from travel warnings. ''If you want to travel to Phuket, Phuket is safe,'' he said.

There was a round of applause. Khun Paiboon thanks Mr Nuamann very much and said it was a good example for other consuls.

Khun Anurak (Czech) raised again the reporting back process of police to embassies and honorary consuls. He said that as a Thai, he was happy to act as intermediary if necessary in translating for other consuls.

Police who could not speak the relevant language should also contact the relevant honorary consul for help in translation.

The province undertook to distribute updated handbooks and contacts.

Khun Paiboon, looking at the list of incidents involving tourists, noted that there were some involving drugs and drunkenness and some involving assaults. How could these be reduced, he asked.

Mr Naumann suggested police handle drunks with care, because some resorted to swearing and abuse. ''We can only request the Thai police to understand that in most western countries, police do not have the same status in Thailand, so therefore it is not unusual for a drunk German to swear,'' he said.

The Vice Governor said: ''There are bad and good tourists everywhere. People need to understand the culture.''

Lieutenant Colonel Ekachai says volunteers, both Thai and expats, on patrol from 9pm to 1am in Soi Bangla handle tourists with care but sometimes the tourists are physically bigger. The Vice Governor is considering special holding areas for drunken tourists to sleep it off. ''They are being taken very good care of.''

Mr Carpenter suggested an initiative to provide local communities to pick up people ''wanting to get home safely'' and suggested talks with Khun Paiboon and others to ensure that those who are out after dark and drinking too much are helped to get home.

Lack of public transport remained the problem, said Chamber of Commerce representative Dr Sirichai. Public transport was needed to run around Patong, especially until late.

Mr Naumann said he had 30 lost or stolen passports in four months. Do honorary consuls have the same situation? Is someone on Phuket collect them? Could the passports be being taken to third countries?

The Interior Ministry representative said he would be keen to know more about the size and scale of the problem.

The Immigration representative also expressed interest and would like to know if there were other cases to share with Interpol.

Irish honorary consul Helene Fallon-Wood said the passport losses she experienced were mostly among young backpackers on Phi Phi and other islands.

The Australian embassy representative asked if people could travel to Bangkok from Phuket on domestic flights with ID rather than a passport.

Mr Naumann said that on domestic flights, a police report could be used, if the passport was stolen.

The honorary consul of Denmark, Kennerth Karlsson, said that police needed to distinguish between stolen passports and lost passports. Most were lost, not stolen.

Anyone who comes to Thailand on non-Immigrant or retirement visa should have proper insurance, Mr Naumann said. Some have not enough money to cover their health. Thai officials needed to make sure that people on long-term visas had health insurance. Otherwise they end up in Thai public hospitals.

Ms Fallon-Wood said people should be made aware of this issue on travel websites in advance, before they travel.

Immigration said they would take on board the suggestion and take it up with Bangkok.

The next meeting is planned for August.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Cool reporting. Like I was there. Thanks.

Posted by Lena on May 24, 2010 16:14

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When I saw the headline of the article I thought tuk-tuks were going to be banned. I got excited. But nobody said any such thing. The closest was the transport representative saying there are 1130 tuk-tuks on the island and the number was "unlikely to increase". The article promised much, but delivered little.

Posted by Dave Taylor on May 24, 2010 17:00

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BLA BLA BLA as usual nothing comes out of it , tuk tuk fares same same but different.

Posted by Lord Jim on May 24, 2010 17:07

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I cannot believe it No More Tuk-Tuks on Phuket get real this is never going to happen.The tourist is now a dying breed, get what you can NOW there is NO tomorrow for an overdeveloped overcharged place with no coral left. You were warned but fail to take heed, my airline ticket says BKK but We now travel onward to Cambodia. The reason is the costs...... not the civil war

Posted by bill on May 24, 2010 17:08

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All involved having piled it so high this time, there'll surely not be a replenishment meeting required urgently as soon as August.

But I do agree with Lena, good reporting.

Posted by donm on May 24, 2010 18:53

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Maybe something has been lost in translation or transcription, but "The Transport representative responds by saying there will be three kinds of public transport on Phuket, the tuk-tuks, fares based on agreement, the taxis, where meters have to be used by law but the law has not been enforced, and limousines, where a meeting will soon decide prices."

"Public transport" is not transport used by the public, but transport provided by the state for public use. So no mention of an island-wide network of buses, coaches or anything else for the future?

Editor: There were some translation problems today. Not every conversation was duplicated in English. I am sure there is a difference between the 'current' public transport alternatives, and what's proposed for the future. There was no mistaking the mood; that everyone present was committed to change. The attitudes of those who were not at the meeting are less clear.

Posted by Doug on May 24, 2010 19:39

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for the taxi or tuk tuk 1500/ 300 baht a day or month or what?

HC Naumann is funny, I like him.
"We can only request the Thai police to understand that in most western countries, police do not have the same status in Thailand, so therefore it is not unusual for a drunk German to swear,'' he said."

Editor: Rent for a month. For the first time, a few figures on taxi/tuk-tuk charges were being offered, comparing Bangkok to Phuket. A very realistic phrase was even used, indicating what a German drunk might call a Thai policeman. I guess it will be used when police in Patong are trained for what they should expect, but we decided it was too strong for Phuketwan, a family publication.

Posted by VFaye on May 24, 2010 21:35

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I watch movies on True Vision where all expletives are left in but somebody's cigarette, alcoholic beverage or cleavage merits the blurry blob on screen.
So in a " World Class" tourist beach town, where prostitutes roam with impunity, lots of tourist cleavage showing, lots of drunken debauchery - but we are to understand cussing is grounds for arrest?

Editor: Perhaps. Not all police everywhere take kindly to being cussed.

Posted by Christy S on May 25, 2010 10:14

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How can tourists expect to negotiate fares when they have no idea how far away something is? Thats crazy! Meters all please!! Priced as an aircon Bangkok taxi! Accept nothing less people!

''nobody knows what the exact price is.'' How about a ballpark figure then?. From what I hear it's a lot. Like the AoT charging the limousines an insane amount of money to operate at the airport.

Posted by Anonymous on May 25, 2010 20:59


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