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One of the accused is cuffed at the Crime Crisis Centre today

Phuket Arrests Grow: Illegal Taxi Ranks Targetted to Save Tourism, Says Police Chief

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
PHUKET: Action had to be taken against tuk-tuk and taxi drivers on Phuket because they were damaging tourism to Thailand, Region 8 Police Commander Major General Panya Mamen told Phuketwan today.

He was speaking as soldiers, police and volunteers dressed in civilian clothes were rounding up suspect drivers and others and formally booking them at the Crime Crisis Centre at Phuket City Police Station.

The action was long-planned but only made possible because the coup enabled swift arrests and concerted action. Among those targetted is the Mayor of Kata-Karon, Tawee Tongcham, who oversees the Phuket district with the most notoriously heavy-handed taxi and tuk-tuk drivers.

He told Phuketwan this afternoon that he had received a telephone call asking him to report: ''I don't know what I have been charged with. I will be talking to my lawyers first.''

At Phuket Police Headquarters, where the massive action involving more than 1000 soldiers, police and volunteers is being coordinated, Major General Panya said the ''untouchables'' were bringing Thailand's reputation into disrepute and had led to a drop in tourist visitors.

He said there were 286 taxi or tuk-tuk ranks on Phuket, with 3000 to 4000 vehicles operating from the ranks. About 70 ranks remained illegal and today's operation, planned for three months, was targetting 11 of those ranks.

Arrest warrants had been issued for 107 people and another 102 were going to be accused, he said. ''On the list are drivers, politicians and supporters of the drivers,'' he said.

A total of 51 tour agents, resorts and tourism-associated businesses had lodged complaints, he said.

As the accused were being brought in and processed through the Crime Crisis Centre, witnesses were identifying them via security camera from the safety of the Phuket Police Headquarters, just around the corner.

Officers from Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat were taking part, together with the Phuket Governor's volunteers and soldiers from the Army Region 4.

Some of the charges were severe or there were multiple counts, the major general said, that could bring 10 years in jail.

''We have had officers working for several days on Phuket already to diminish the prospect of blockades in reaction to these arrests,'' he said.

''More than 50 percent of those who are to be arrested are not from Phuket. They come from other provinces and pretend to be from Phuket,'' he said.

At the Crime Crisis Centre, one of two established on Phuket about 12 months ago, people were coming in and being fingerprinted and processed at a long table with police on one side and the accused on the other.

A tour operator who preferred to remain anonymous told Phuketwan that there was no point in drivers claiming they were being deprived of the ability to support their families.

''This has been going on for years,'' the operator said. ''These drivers show no interest in behaving like respected people.

''Their attitude is one of the reasons why Phuket has lost some of its 'quality' tourists. There is no defence for the way they act. Their greed has brought them unstuck.''

Much of the preparatory work was done under the command of Phuket Police Chief Major-General Ong-Art, who was transferred to Surat Thani on Monday.

His replacement, the Deputy Region 8 Commander, Major General Karajang Suwannarat, was at Phuket Police Headquarters today.

Major General Panya was due to meet with Phuket businesspeople at 2pm and brief the Phuket media at 3pm.

Comments

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Fantastic.

Posted by arthur on June 4, 2014 14:25

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That's great news :)

Posted by jean-paul patrick on June 4, 2014 14:47

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I must admit that all along you stuck to your guns, exercising patience and believing that time will put this tuk tuk thing on the right track..while us doomsayers, myself included, argued with you over and over..many times we had good reason...but in the long run your patience paid off...
In any case..it looks like we are all coming out winners

Posted by sky on June 4, 2014 15:19

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...a ray of hope for Phuket....

Posted by Hopelander on June 4, 2014 15:25

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Finally.

Posted by d on June 4, 2014 15:36

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Wow!

Posted by J on June 4, 2014 15:50

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I almost have tears in my eyes.... LONG LIVE THE ARMY... This is even better then my wildest dreams... the thughs , the cancer of Phuket might even get punished.... free drinks in my bar for u all when this been done....

Posted by frog on June 4, 2014 16:00

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Delighted to read your article. All good things come to those who wait, even if patience & belief is sometimes found wanting.

However, based on your previous article about Phuket prison being grossly over crowded, I wonder where they are going to lock up hundreds more detainees.

They may have to set up some sort of camp compound or simply take them away from the island to detention elsewhere.

Posted by Logic on June 4, 2014 16:01

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This is what we were expecting from the DSI (that was a disappointment afterwards). Now I also see a sparkle of light in the eyes of my Thai colleagues who also very much believe this is something for real now.

Posted by Jakub P on June 4, 2014 16:27

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Drove past the Dino Plaza in Kata 3.30pm today and saw 3 black plate taxis openly displaying a "TAXI" sign on their roof.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 4, 2014 17:08

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I hope it's not too late. This should have been done a few years ago. Many tourists have already moved on and undoing the bad reputation Phuket has earned won't be achieved overnight.

Re-claiming public beaches from private business must be next. Without usable beaches Phuket has little to offer for many of us ex-regulars.

Posted by Arun Muruga on June 4, 2014 17:41

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EXTREMELY Good News

I hope they not give up soon. Hopefully they will manage to clean out as much as possible.
Very Happy to read this article

Posted by Mj on June 4, 2014 19:10

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I went through my first Road Block today on the 3 way stop on the way to Nai Harn. The Forces were extremely polite, and very happy i had an international drivers licence. I really felt very secure, and it was heartwarming to see them swarming into Phuket and doing things that we have all chatted about over the few years. They did very well in Karon today demolishing the taxi ranks. Am very proud, well done guys, next the beaches, please clear them of chairs, umbrellas, restaurants and Jet Skis.

Posted by Gregg P Cornell on June 5, 2014 23:27

Editor Comment:

That's actually a checkpoint, Gregg, not to be confused with a road block.

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I dont believe it, I think I need to wipe my eyes...is there really action being taking against these horrid mafia taxi's?...really?...really?...Im still having a hard time believing it...maybe they will return in the future?...if this really is working then I am totally amazing for years they talked and talked about fixing this problem...still find it hard to believe...if this is true then im full of joy beyond belief and those mafia finally get what they deserve great new's for everyone.

Posted by Andrew Ronayne on June 24, 2014 00:33


Tuesday October 15, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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