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Siam Safari vehicles go trekking in the hills of Phuket

Phuket Brands and Tuk-Tuks in Fares Stand-Off

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
TWO OF the best-known tourism brands in Thailand are embroiled in an argument with Phuket tuk-tuk drivers that has also involved police, and possibly will soon involve the island's governor.

The brands are Centara, the expanding Thai resort chain that is part of the Central group, and Siam Safari, a well-regarded tour company that has been operating on the island for 20 years.

The row came to a head about noon on Monday when tuk-tuk drivers blocked the entrance to the upmarket Centara Karon Resort Phuket.

The drivers let other guests come and go but would not allow a Siam Safari vehicle to pick up customers, who happened to be guests at the resort.

For years, Siam Safari has been picking up and dropping off customers at resorts all over the island.

Now the Karon tuk-tuk drivers say it's time to allow them to carry the guests from resorts, including the Centara, to Siam Safari, which has its main centre several kilometres away in Chao Fa Road West, Chalong.

Siam Safari and the Centara are, it seems, not yet prepared to have the tuk-tuk drivers assume this role. Siam Safari contacted Chalong police who went to the resort and ensured that the guests were able to board the Siam Safari vehicle.

The management of Centara has booked an appointment with the Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-ngob, for Wednesday. It appears likely that the issue will be a topic for discussion.

We cannot say for certain because the general manager of the resort was in Bangkok today, Phuketwan was told, and the duty manager did not return several calls we made tonight to the resort.

Most customers of Siam Safari, Phuketwan has been told, make their bookings through international agents before arriving on Phuket.

However, the president of the Karon-Kata Tuk-Tuk Association, Porntep Chamkawn, said: ''Drivers in this area see vehicles from businesses in other areas come to pick up guests in their own vehicles.

''The money goes direct to the companies. What about the tuk-tuk drivers who have to sit outside the resorts, waiting for work?

''They see these vehicles come, and take customers away, and the money is gone with the customers. The local people are doing their best to protect the environment.

''All the attractions of Karon and Kata are looked after by the local people. Yet outsiders come and take the money.

''It's not fair. We need to make sure that the money stays in the local area. All we want is 350 baht for every trip involving between one and four customers.

''If there are five customers, we will need to take two tuk-tuks, so it will be 700 baht.''

The fare is one-way, from anywhere in Karon-Kata to Siam Safari, and Siam Safari remains free to continue to return the customers to their resorts afterwards, Khun Porntep said.

The point was made to Phuketwan by a tourism industry contact who preferred to remain anonymous that Centara and Siam Safari spend a lot of money to promote Phuket and its attractions.

The huge amount that others spend to bring people to Phuket is a factor that the tuk-tuk drivers do not seem to take into account.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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One wonders why the guests do not drive the eco-friendly tuktuk, driven by ecofriendly driver, who clean the beaches and toilets in their spare time, so the ungrateful tourists have a nice holiday experience.

When does Phuket grow up and kick this bad influence monopoly into the place it belongs.

Business does not belong naturally to someone. You have to earn it with good service etc. Then every one would like to take your ride.

But now Tuktuks do not need to think about, because (they think?) they OWN the streets.

Posted by Lena on December 8, 2009 22:36

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This is completely outrageous behavior by the tuk-tuk drivers. The fares they charge are obscenely inflated. If a business like Siam Safari wants to use its own vehicle to pick up customers, surely that is their legal right. If there was any justice in Phuket the tuk-tuk cowboys would be out of business. But they use strong arm tactics like this to ensure their grubby little racket remains in place. Disgusting.

Posted by Anonymous on December 8, 2009 23:14

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More bullying tactics involving TukTuks. It is up to the customers how they want to go from A to B. TukTuks are unsafe, no seat belts, driving while under the influence as well as driving like maniacs.

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2009 02:53

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Thuggishness driven by their own mafia-fueled sense of entitlement. Unbelievable.

Posted by D on December 9, 2009 07:16

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I was on the streets of Patong one recent afternoon when I was confronted by a scowling thug who grunted, "Ugh,You! Tuk Tuk". Which for me sums up the whole tuk-tuk experience on this island. They will never go away as they simply generate far too much revenue for others.

Posted by Treelover on December 9, 2009 07:43

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This nearly brought tears to my eyes. Siam Safari probably does free pick-ups why would they want to pay the TUk Tuks? And people probably book direct before they come here, not even through an agent.

The real issue here is not just the 350 baht but also the commission for doing nothing that the Tuk Tuk drivers are not getting because they are not taking people there. '

Have you ever seen the tuk tuk station at the bottom of the Nai Harn Kata Hill? They guys sit there doing nothing while there is litter everywhere in front of their sala.

Yes the Tuk Tuks sit around all day waiting for the fare because they are lazy and do NOTHING for the local environment.

For all the beach clean ups we have had over the years I have never seen one Tuk Tuk driver help.

Please Porntep Chamkawn, cite one example of them protecting the local environment? Sure, like a bunch of pit bulls.

Posted by VFaye on December 9, 2009 09:39

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I hope the Governor gets involved and sorts this once and for all. All his predecessors have failed to bring the Tuk Tuk mafia to account, let's see if the current Governor can. If not... this kind of thuggish and ludicrous behaviour from the Tuk Tuks will continue.

Posted by Duncan on December 9, 2009 09:55

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"What about the tuk-tuk drivers who have to sit outside the resorts, waiting for work?"

Find another occupation! Most people wanting to earn an income don't sit around waiting for it to drop on their lap...

Posted by Lana on December 9, 2009 14:19

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Look on the bright side:
;-)

While the Tuktuks drive tourists from and to Siam Safari we can finally find some space in Kata/Karon to park our cars on these "for tuktuks only"-streets...

No kidding: I believe the Siam Safari-Jeeps are driven much more reckless then the Tuktuks...

Posted by Herbert on December 9, 2009 15:03

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I am utterly disgusted. I'd rather walk than pay them.

Posted by Ian on December 9, 2009 15:23

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Interestingly I have been trying to spend some money in the local Karon economy. This was not possible due to the fact that parking a car is not possible anywhere in Karon centre. It seems that some areas are specified for 'local taxis and tuktu's.

Other areas should then be available for 'normal' cars. Not!! Parking is made impossible with the simple line: taxis only, go somewhere else. Unfortunately, Karon will not receive any of my money. Feel sorry for the good willing entrepreneurs who try to make money in 4 months a year but even in this period are obstructed.

Posted by Lucien on December 9, 2009 17:24

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Disgusting. Tuk tuks deserve nothing. The simple reason they are not used is because they are daylight robbers.

If there were meter taxis like Bangkok people would use them. Another point, why should more people cost more? A meter taxi has a flat rate for 1,2,3 or 4 people. The same trip in Bangkok would cost about 150 baht. Their 350 or 700+ is a disgrace.

Rent your own transport.

Posted by Anonymous on December 9, 2009 18:05

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The whole thing to me is the attitude that we 'must' use their service.. Not that a business lives or dies on the quality of service it provides, or the price, or any one of many real world factors. No the tuk tuks must get their slice no matter what they do, what price they charge and what kind of rude, threatening, deceitful tactics they employ.

Otherwise they will blockage, trespass, and break the laws to intimidate and demand their protection money to ensure that their right to that revenue is protected. Its insane.

If this island is going to progress and evolve these kind of cartels and support from 'persons of influence' will need to be taken on and stopped, if its not done now the problem will only be larger and harder to solve later.

Licensed meter taxis.. Its so simple.

Posted by LivinLOS on December 9, 2009 18:15

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I think its time to investigate the WHOLE story behind this.
Governor ,take note! Take action NOW, please!

Posted by Anonymous on December 10, 2009 01:13

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Lucien makes an excellent point about the horrendous parking situation in Karon Centre. It has become so bad that one can not even find a place to park a motorbike there (Buddha help you if you try and park your bike in front of a business that you are not patronizing). As for the tuk-tuks, as long as influential people are involved they are not going anywhere. This is not the first time tuk-tuks have gotten into a fray with local business, and it won't be the last.

Posted by Treelover on December 10, 2009 07:07

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As a working foreigner here I am happy to pay my taxes and contribute.
How much tax do Tuk Tuk driver pay? Do they file every year like honest, hardworking Thais with legitimate jobs?

And do they claim in addition to their fares, all the commissions they make from shooting range, elephant trekking, gem factory, cashew factory, shopping, restaurants, bars, etc?

If so then perhaps we should support them more as they are supporting the local economy too, right?

Posted by VFaye on December 10, 2009 22:40

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Ok, so after all these comments, when are we, the public, going on strike against the tuc tucs ?

Posted by elizabeth on December 11, 2009 01:06

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It is an absolute disgrace but will not change as long as people such as the Orbortor, Tessaban etc. own or have significant interests in the Tuk Tuk industry. Unfortunately we expect no change.

Posted by Jimmy on December 11, 2009 13:27

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I would like to know who gets money from the tuk tuks and lets them operate freely?

Eliminating tuk tuks would also make it possible to start proper public bus routes at tourist beaches / whole island. At the moment no-one's brave enough to try. At some point tourists will take their money to more hospitable destinations outside Thailand.

Posted by Jim-Bob on December 12, 2009 13:54

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Here's an idea - vote with your feet!

Posted by Mister Ree on December 16, 2009 19:26

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The tuk tuk drivers have made Phuket an unpleasant place to be. I simply don't bother going there any more.

Posted by Norman Baumgreen on December 22, 2009 14:13

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Or start videoing every confrontation you have with these guys and post it on youtube. Did the trick wih the jetskis.

Posted by Pete on December 22, 2009 14:17


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