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The first limos and taxis arrive to blockade Phuket's administration today

Phuket Airport Crunch: Governor Has Seven Days

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Phuketwan UPDATE

GOVERNOR Wichai Praisa-ngob met with representatives of the taxi and limo drivers and asked for seven days to respond. Protesters accepted his request. The blockade began to break up before noon.

Original Report

TAXIS and limousines surrounded Provincial Hall in Phuket City today in a blockade that protesters say will grow to involve 150 vehicles and 300 staff.

Leaders of the drivers say they will blockade Phuket airport if their grievances are not resolved by Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob.

The governor returned on a flight from Bangkok this morning and held talks with AoT officials at the airport before heading to Provincial Hall, where he arrived at 11.03am.

By then, the number of taxis and limos involved in the protest had swollen to about 100 vehicles.

The dispute is over how 30 new airport permits have been allocated and rent charged for the taxis and limousines to operate at the airport.

Workers at Provincial Hall struggled to get past the increasing number of protest vehicles today. Tourists are expected to encounter problems finding transport to and from the airport.

Today's protest and the threat of a tourism-damaging blockade of Phuket airport highlight the deficiencies of a Phuket transport system that is extortionate and in need of rapid reform by Thailand's government.

Shares fell on the Thai stock exchange yesterday after a report that red-shirt political protesters might stage a peaceful rally next week at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport, an idea labelled ''national suicide.''

On Phuket, the driver-protesters have indicated that a full blockade of the island's airport will be undertaken unless authorities agree to their demands.

Resentment about Phuket's exceedingly expensive tuk-tuks and taxis has been growing among tourists and expat residents following two recent assaults. A Candian received five punches to the face and a Frenchman had an arm broken.

Today's protest on Phuket should put the issue firmly on the front pages, and probably bring international coverage of the kind that can only damage the entire Thailand tourism industry.

The mayor of Mai Khao, Sarawoot Srisakoolkram, is brother of the general manager of the Airport Limousine and Business Services Cooperative, the company with the largest number of airport permits.

He told Phuketwan last night that he thought there were already enough permits at the airport. More were unnecessary, he said.

Today his brother, general manager of Limousine Services, Worawit Srisakoolkram, said the co-op was 1.4 million baht in debt and had struggled to make money for the last two years because of the 14 million baht a year rent paid to Airports of Thailand, which manages Phuket Airport.

He said the system cannot sustain more taxis and more losses and wants AoT to reduce its annual rent to eight million baht.

At present at the airport there are 68 metered taxis, 80 Mai Khao Sakool saloon cars and 150 Airport Limousine and Business vehicles.

A new arrangement, approved by Airports and Thailand and the Transport office, would add 30 vehicles to the Mai Khao Sakool fleet.

But the drivers are insisting that each of the groups should gain 10 permits.

The invasion and blockade of the Phuket airport for three days in August 2008 was a precursor to the longer and more damaging eight-day sit-in at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok the following November.

Despite the huge losses that the Phuket airport protest imposed on the Andaman tourist industry and Thailand's reputation, no charges were ever laid against the organisers.

However, a full-scale practice involving police with riot shields and fire trucks squirting streams of water at mock protesters last year was an indication that authorities will not countenance a second ill-conceived blockade of Phuket airport.

*Some earlier reports on Phuketwan confused Sarawoot Srisakoolkram with his brother Worawit. The correction has been made.
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Update: Tourist Fined, Then Flies off Phuket
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Who runs the island ?? Tuk tuks and Taxis or the Government ?? I guess we will find out soon.

Posted by Lord Jim on January 20, 2010 10:15

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It is time the government took control of this situation and allowed bus services and sufficient metered taxis.

I will not return to Phuket until metered taxis are the norm in Phuket. I will also tell others not to go there too.

Thailand, especially Phuket, needs to clean up their act.

Posted by Allan on January 20, 2010 15:56

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Support the meter taxi, it is the only proper priced transport on the island!

Posted by Peter on January 20, 2010 17:31

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@Peter

I am not quite sure, there is another thread in an other media about sharing a meter taxi, which is "not possible". So you cannot go from A to B, drop one person on and go on to C. Normally the complete fare should be just A -> C...

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on January 20, 2010 18:43


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