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Larry Cunningham (left) and others at the ''rip-off committee'' meeting

Phuket Needs Army to deal With Taxis, Tuk-Tuks, Meeting Told

Thursday, February 2, 2012
PHUKET: Thailand's Army should be called in to end the taxi and tuk-tuk rip-offs of tourists on Phuket, a meeting heard yesterday.

''The problem cannot be solved in any other way,'' said tour company representative Trakul Jullanon. ''It's time to call in the Army,'' he told Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

About 50 representatives from resorts and tour companies gathered in the first assembly of the Phuket governor's ''tourism rip-offs'' committee for the year. The committee was established last year in consultation with the Interior Ministry.

A representative from the Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Pareeya Julapong, said that there were times when the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers prevented patients from getting to and from hospital.

A representative from the international Club Med brand, Wijid Dasandhat, said that even the son of a former Prime Minster of France was recently prevented from being picked up by friends in a private car - until the blockading taxi drivers were given 800 baht to allow it to happen.

Club Med has a recently-renovated resort on Phuket at Kata beach. ''It's remarkable,'' Khun Wijid said. ''These people can do whatever they want.''

Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham, who also runs the Chava Resort at Surin, said that the Australian Government had already issued a travel alert about the scams of jet-ski operators.

A similar warning about Phuket's taxis and tuk-tuks was now being considered, he said.

''Like virtually every other resort on Phuket, the Chava in Surin is held to ransom by the local taxi drivers,'' he said. ''The streets of Surin [a beach north of Patong and Kamala] are not controlled by the local council. They are not controlled by the police.

''The streets of Surin are controlled by the local taxi drivers. The drivers have so much power . . . they even have more power than the jet-ski scammers.''

Mr Cunningham said that Australia's Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, former Ambassador to Thailand Bill Paterson, who was appointed in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, had visited Phuket last week.

''He noted changes since he was last here, specifically the abusive manner of the taxi drivers.

''We cannot have our guests picked up to go on tours, to go on elephant treks or other activities, because the tour company drivers are too scared of the local taxi drivers.

''These people wear no shirts at the local 'taxi' stand, they set fire to their rubbish, and when they want to wash their hands, they simply stroll into the resort and use the resort tap.''

Mr Cunningham said he had taken the precaution of notifying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that national consulates needed to be protected, and the Australian consulate was at the Chava.

''It would be a simple matter for the taxi drivers to blockade the resort,'' he said, ''as they have done many times at other resorts.''

He said that anyone who knew Surin and Bang Tao would know how close the two beaches were to each other, yet the local 'taxis' ''charge a minimum of 400 baht for the journey.''

''In the 12 years I have been here, I have seen the power of these people [illegal taxi drivers] rise,'' Mr Cunningham said. ''They now believe they are unstoppable. They hold the whole of Phuket to ransom.''

Khun Pareeya from Bangkok Phuket Hospital told the meeting that resorts where the hospital had had problems using ''partner'' vehicles to pick up patients included Avista, Ramada, Merlin Beach (Tritrang), Cape Sienna, Novotel Patong, Twinpalms, Club Med and Front Village Karon.

The Vice President of the Phuket Tourism Association, Bhuritt Maswongsa, said there were now so many complaints about tuk-tuks and 'taxis' that the Government of Thailand had to take them seriously because they were damaging honest businesses and Phuket's international reputation.

''We just can't have these people scaring the tourists off Phuket,'' he said.

Deputy Phuket Police Commander Colonel Pirayut Karajadi said the new Phuket Police Commander, Major General Chonsit Wadhnawarangkun, had already met with the superintendents of Phuket's eight police stations about the issue.

There were at least 69 ''taxi'' stands on Phuket with illegal taxis and hundreds if not thousands of illegal cabs, he said.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I say bring the army in. I am prevented to even pick up my own friends from various resorts, ( You know who you are), so if I go out, I go with a friend of mine from the police who is very high in rank and not scared of these a---holes. Bring in the army, cleanup day has arrived. Yipeeeeeeeee !!

Posted by Dun on February 2, 2012 12:04

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It would appear that even the Australian honorary consul has concern for his own resorts well being.

An excellent article further telling the public the extent of lawlessness on Phuket.

I'm too afraid of repercussions to make any further comment.

Posted by Anonymous on February 2, 2012 12:08

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"Thailand's Army should be called in to end the taxi and tuk-tuk rip-offs of tourists on Phuket."

Some of us have been saying that for years.

Posted by Eric on February 2, 2012 13:17

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Just maybe there is glimmer of light in solving this ongoing problem. Over the years "lip service" is all I have seen resulted. When will actions happen? Then maybe Phuket can start restoring its reputation. Until then, I just dot this down as another wishful story.

Posted by john s on February 2, 2012 13:32

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Wow, it seems like nothing was held back. And good on them too!

Eight years here... And I've never seen the momentum like there is now regarding dealing with the dark issues of Phuket.

Good luck, I believe something will actually give.

Posted by S on February 2, 2012 14:02

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Wouldn't that be great if that happened? We can only pray. I'm not thinking tanks and troops in military clothing, but what if at least BKK BIB came down and enforced the law, free of local corruption? I was in the South end of Kata Last night, and witnessed aggressive bully tactics at a KT 'service' stand. This Russian couple with a pushchair and baby being told 300 Baht to Club Med and ''you not find cheaper, go find then'' in an overly aggressive loud tone heard by many when the lady was trying to reason with the fare. If I was a fit man, I probably could jog that distance in 4 minutes. (We all know that's a 35 baht fare in Bangkok). Such a pity and I feel so sorry for anyone who has no option but to use this 'service'. Please Bangkok, we all appeal to you, do something, do something now about these organised monopoly syndicates.

Posted by Andy on February 2, 2012 14:36

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Good article,
But the Phuket problems and news issues should get more attention from The Nation & Bangkok Post. To get better coverage and more attention from Bangkok and to put the pressure up. Don't misunderstand me I don't blame Phuketwan for this lack off attention. This article was good and clear. Let hope the Best for Phuket.

Posted by PhuketExpat on February 2, 2012 14:36

Editor Comment:

No harm in telling The Nation and the Bangkok Post that, Phuket Expat. We don't have any influence.

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It's about time!

Posted by Jean-Paul Patrick on February 2, 2012 15:06

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its a stupid idea.. come on! how can you bring the army in to deal with this? the next day they would be back to normal.

Posted by poppops on February 2, 2012 17:23

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Interesting - last year people were complaining here about the army being on the streets of Bangkok, now they want them on the streets of Phuket. The military is there in any country to AID the civil power, not BE it. There are complaints in the UK at the moment about the army being trained to provide support to the Olympics if necessary. If they weren't trained and something happened everyone would be saying 'where's the army'. A real Kipling moment. If there was the desire to deal with this issue at the local level it could be sorted out very quickly - there are only a few 'influential people' at the head of this hydra. Unfortunately that desire is sadly lacking.

Posted by Mister Ree on February 2, 2012 18:50

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The best part of this development is that now some well-heeled and connected local Thai people are starting to press for drastic action.

It's obviously becoming a battle of "influences".

As foreigners, even the HCs and Ambassadors don't seem to get any results, try as hard as they may.

Posted by Steve C. on February 2, 2012 19:52

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I understand the argument that says that as soon as the army leaves, the problem returns, but surely the point is to (a) direct attention to the underlying problem and (b) indicate the severity of it.

The underlying problem is simple enough - an almost complete and cataclysmic failure of the rule of law. Blockading, violence and unregistered public transport vehicles are all against the law. If the local police force had the inclination, there could be literally hundreds of people justifiably now in court or jail.

As for the severity, it's getting to be a battle of the monied interests on Phuket. Obviously there's a whole lot of money tied up (and spread around) with the tuk tuk/taxi businesses, but there's more tied up in the broader hotel and tourism industries.

I go back to what I've said before. The cartels are not going to surrender their pay-offs, so tactics such as slow negotiations and issues such as a billion baht tram line serving only two points on the island serve them just fine. What is required is jail time for people breaking the law. If that requires outside police (or the army) and people to be held in jails in Bangkok, then so be it.

This can't go on for much longer before Phuket's reputation is totally lost. And once it's gone, they won't be able to get it back again.

Posted by Doug on February 2, 2012 21:11

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I find it incredible that hoteliers throughout Phuket who have invested billions of baht are being held to ransom by these type of people. The obvious reason is that its dangerous to say anything because life is cheap and nobody is untouchable. I wish this problem could be resolved but I don't know how.

Posted by yozza on February 2, 2012 21:32

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The whole problem is explained very clear here.
Can just hope that some influential Thai people read it.
It is totally unbelievable that the local society accepts these conditions and the following losses of income.

Posted by Sherlock on February 2, 2012 21:54

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I thought there were a record number of people coming through phuket airport last year? Nothing will be done about this cancer as long as the tourists are still coming. If everyone stopped using tuk tuks things would happen maybe. I haven't used one in years now. I don't get motorbike taxis either, they used to be good value but now are just as bad as the tuk tuks. Bangkok taxis were a fraction of the price of phuket's even on new years eve. Phuket has many problems that need to be sorted out but as long as the corruption keeps on nothing will be done. I would like to see action instead of all the talk of what will be done or what needs to be done though. We live in hope..Good luck to all..

Posted by sateeb on February 3, 2012 01:46

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Revenge, nah. I'll just sit here and let KAMA eF you up.
'Nuff said.

Posted by Anony mouse on February 3, 2012 07:50

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Well said Doug, but look at it another way. You own a large company and have managers and supervisors, as the owner you direct the managers to do certain things who then oversee the supervisors who action your directions, if the work is not done or not done to your satisfaction then heads must roll. No Army needed.

Posted by Mick on February 3, 2012 08:26

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I know quiet some people, including myself, who can and would like to give some real and detailed facts and share their local knowledge. And give this way concrete information about Liscence corruption, building corruption, noise and garbage pollution, land and developments problems but they are with, good, reasons, to scared for revenge from the big and influential BIG guys and their 50.000 baht bullet staff. Give us a way / possibility to freely speak (and proof) but this within real anonymity. Postbox 100 from the Governor sounds nice, but what guarantees he or his staff is not involved? Comment boxes like this one are not "safe". I do sometimes read Editors comments which indicates me that if he dislikes your comments he is not a garantee for discretion either.

Sorry Ed.

Posted by PhuketExpat on February 3, 2012 16:49

Editor Comment:

I suggest you consult your honorary consul or your ambassador next time you are in Bangkok, or another country's honorary consul if you don't have one available. We are not law enforcers.

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Even influential Thais are mortals. And they know it.

Posted by Lena on February 3, 2012 20:13

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Phuket has been a stronghold for Thailand's Democrat party for at least a decade. It will be extremely difficult for the national government, made up for the most part by the PTP, to exercise any significant influence in Phuket without the assistance of legitimate law enforcement. The Democrat politicians of Phuket will use any attempt to curtail the corruption and lawlessness as an excuse to attack the national government. (Note how the national Democrat party remains silent on the issue.) An attempt to use the police will produce results similar to the airport occupation where the police were unable to stop it. This is why there is a reason to use the army to supplement the under staffed and underpowered police of Phuket.

Posted by Ryan on February 3, 2012 20:20

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I'm from Asia, I'm amazed by the ignorance of western people, who keep coming to Asian countries, when they know, they would be ripped off...You guys are educated, and know the difference between right and wroung but its soo easy to fool you in Asia it seems.

Why don't you get it...Its third world for no reason...people are simply put "bad"...and "currupt"....our souls are not evolved enough to know the self destructive nature of us...we will destroy ourself and other who keep coming here...

Posted by Dhiraj on February 4, 2012 11:50

Editor Comment:

You've used a different name on each of your last six comments, Dhiraj/Jack/Sachin/Luk/lavista4u/Jack. Your latest comment is an accurate guide as to where you're coming from.

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(moderated)

Posted by PhuketExpat on February 4, 2012 14:05

Editor Comment:

''Flaming'' or blaming me achieves nothing, PhuketExpat, but achieving nothing appears to be your sole aim. You are welcome to comment if you have something of interest to say. If it's about you, please don't bother.

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If someone with competent computer skills could gather all the press articles and comments and send them to the TAT and government offices in Bangkok, maybe we'll get somewhere. I left Phuket because of these problems .For years I have denounced the scams, violence and illegality of the Phuket taxi/tuc tuc drivers . Nothing has ever been done .I have since lived in 2 other thai resorts, and we all have the use of a baht bus, even Pattaya !!!

Posted by elizabeth on February 12, 2012 13:36

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Hey guys, as we all know but obviously nobody dares to speak out: 'It's all about local coruption. Everybody including local police makes money with the taxi and tuk tuk mafia, partly is the taxi and tuk tuk mafia.' So how can we expect the locals to solve this problem? They would never cut the branch which is feeding them. All this stuff is a part of the general problem this socitiy has and nobody is willing to solve, because again everybody is making money with it! Understood? So please stop talking about it, this will never be solved, just accept it or leave back to your home country.

Posted by KJ on February 15, 2012 02:10

Editor Comment:

Now there's a ''can do'' attitude.

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Add to the list Serenity Terraces Resort in Rawai, here the taxi mafia have blocked the entrance on many occasions, and prevented outside transport from entering and/or leaving. Even renting a longtail boat from Chalong pier needs to be transacted through them, we were told.

Posted by Ian on February 26, 2012 09:36

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(moderated)

Posted by Martin on February 28, 2012 01:33

Editor Comment:

What Phuket actually needs, Martin, is people who don't expect the media to do everything for them. Take some risks.

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I stayed at Cape Sienna in July / August 2012 and experienced all this bullcrap. Clean up your country and get rid of these no-goods..

Posted by Daniel on August 11, 2012 18:58

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Thailand's biggest problem over the next decade will be coming to grips with the fact that information now spreads more quickly than at any other time in history.

Even look at this story. Ten years ago the only people who would even be aware of this problem are some residents and tourists in Phuket. It might make the local papers but it was containable. Chances are if you lived in Australia, Europe or the US you would never see the story.

Today, Phuketwan is read across the world. Tourists, business people, government officials, etc can all read about what's going on very easily on the internet.

And Thailand's power structure simply has no idea of how to handle the free flow of information. Until recently it was very easy to keep negative news quiet.

Look at the responses to recent events like the Evil Man From Krabi video. A few years ago the Dutch man who made the video would have had no outlet to vent his anger and frustration. Today, over 500,000 people have viewed his video and shared his contempt.

And the relative anonymity provided by the internet allows Thais to vent without the fear of repercussions. It wasn't the international response that caused the Thai police in Krabi to retract their video response to the Dutch man's video but the outrage of Thais that forced their hand.

I know a lot of expats have heard it all before and discount that anything will ever change in Thailand but I would imagine that even the most cynical expat would have to admit that there's a lot more light being shined into the dark places where light has never shone before.

Posted by thefarang on January 10, 2013 22:54


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