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.