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Metered taxis are the civilised alternative to local Phuket cabs

My Phuket Nightmare: Phuket Tourist Tells of Taxi Drivers in Savage Beating

Monday, September 5, 2011
PHUKET: Australian tourist Glenn Dawson, at the centre of the action when a tour driver was beaten by local Phuket taxi drivers outside a five-star Phuket resort yesterday, has given a full account of the incident.

The courage of Mr Dawson, the driver involved and the manager of the local tour company in speaking out to Phuketwan and other Phuket media is unusual.

Many resorts on Phuket submit to the intimidation of Phuket's tuk-tuk and taxi public transport monopoly and do not complain to police or even to their own brand managements.

Here is Mr Dawson's account of the incident. He and his wife Deidre were in the tour car outside the Cape Sienna Resort, a five-star in the west coast township of Kamala, when the attack began.

They were looking forward to enjoying a popular Phuket tourist holiday pastime, an elephant trek in the south of Phuket.

As the manager of a resort on the island of Lombok, near Bali, Mr Dawson remains astonished at what happened to him next on Phuket:

''The beating: It all started when the driver could not pick us up at Cape Sienna hotel at 12.30pm and we did not think much about it, just a little weird, but agreed to walk down the street.

''We found the driver and car about a three minute walk down the road from the hotel entrance. We got in and he needed to do a U-turn to get out of the road and had to go past Cape Sienna to do the turn.

''On the way back after the turn a car outside/opposite Cape Sienna pulled straight out in front of us and we stopped behind it. Then a guy walked up to the driver and the driver was very distressed at this point, asking me to do something, however I could not understand what he was saying.

''The guy reached in the window and turned the ignition off and proceeded to yell at the driver. We started saying 'What the hell is going on here' and he [the man outside the car] told us it was between him and the driver.

''Then more and more of them started coming around the car and they started punching the driver through the window and trying to drag him out of the car.

''He had his seatbelt on, so the guy just started kicking him once he got the door open, continuing to try and drag him out of the car. Thankfully he could not get him out - because of the seatbelt, I think. In the meantime we had gotten out of the car.

''I screamed in the face of one guy 'Do you think about tourism here?' to which he just said, 'Nothing to do with you.' So we ran across the road to the driveway of Cape Sienna and continued yelling at these guys to leave the driver alone.

''Then they just turned around, maybe five of them by this time and looked at me, one saying or screaming at me, 'F!@# OFF Tourist'.

''It was at this time that the driver got a chance to actually shut the door and start the car and proceeded to drive away.

''Then another guy came out of the sala and threw an iron bar ( about 500mm long) straight into the windscreen as he was taking off. Luckily for the driver, it hit side on as it could have gone straight through the windscreen.

''At this point we are screaming from the driveway to leave him alone still and I said to Dee (Deidre) 'Let's get up to some safety of the foyer at least.'

''The security [guard] of Cape Sienna was doing nothing and sat quietly at the end of the driveway. He did not move at all.

''We got into the foyer and we started screaming at the staff to help and demanded to see the manager on duty and for them to call the police, which they did not respond to at all and did not do at all.

''He came out and we were still shaking and extremely upset, with Dee in tears. The manager said they have had problems with these guys, but you could tell he did not want to go into it with us.

''He offered us the luxury car to take us on a tour to another elephant trek up north. We left maybe 30 minutes later. On the way back we stopped to pick up a suit I had had made in Kamala beach.

''I asked them [the tailors] to drop it off to Cape Sienna if it was not ready. They flatly refused saying no-one from any of the shops down below Cape Sienna Hotel goes up there.

''They are afraid of what could happen to their business and also asked me not to tell the hotel or anyone else for fear of repercussions.

''Nothing has been said to us since we got back by anyone working in Cape Sienna, which is a little poor on their behalf. However, the duty manager did inform us that he would be talking with the general manager tomorrow morning [Monday] and they would speak to the taxi mafia guys.''

Mr Dawson said he had posted his report of the attack on the powerful Internet tourism advisory service, tripadvisor. He said he was keen to have this kind of intimidation brought to a halt.

''The hotel obviously does not warn guests of these people,'' he said. To be fair to Cape Sienna, most resorts on Phuket also never mention the taxi driver monopoly for fear of retaliation.

Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham, who runs the Chava Resort north of Kamala in Surin, has spoken out about a group of drivers outside his resort at the regular quarterly meetings between the Phuket honorary consuls and Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha.

It was revealed at the last meeting this week that the minutes of the important regular summits, held primarily to discuss tourism and tourist safety on Phuket, have frequently been censored to remove damaging references to tuk-tuks, taxis, jet-skis and other negatives about Phuket.

As a result of yesterday's incident, the driver suffered cuts and bruises. He was treated at Patong Hospital and reported the attack to Kamala police. Officers say they are investigating.

The Dawsons, having been holidaying on Phuket for two weeks, were due to catch a flight back to Bali early today.
Phuket Taxi Thugs Attack Tour Driver; Tourists Left Shaking, Iron Bar Smashes Windscreen
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Phuket Taxi Thugs Attack Tour Driver; Tourists Left Shaking, Iron Bar Smashes Windscreen

Phuket's Tuk-Tuk Gangs Respond With Violence and Create Fear
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Latest Austria's ambassador tells Phuket administrators and Phuket honorary consuls that European countries are close to issuing travel advice about tuk-tuks.
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Control Phuket Tuk-Tuk Thugs or Lose European Tourists, Ambassador Warns
Latest An ambassador and several honorary consuls have warned Phuket administrators not to allow tuk-tuk drivers and jet-ski operators to continue to exert power on Phuket.
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Phuket Envoys Accuse Admin of Removing Jet-Ski, Tuk-Tuk Criticism
Breaking News Honorary consuls complain about what they said are ''one-sided minutes'' from a previous meeting that do not accurately reflect criticism.
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Phuket Attack Victim Holds Key to Catching Gang of Patong Thugs
Latest A German expat resident, emerging from a coma in the intensive care unit at a Phuket hospital, is the only one who can identify the gang of Patong thugs who beat him unconscious.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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This problem wiil never be solved because nobody in Thailand want it to be solved. They all share from the pie.

Posted by Staf on September 5, 2011 05:32

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The main problem here is greed.
It is not greed to get money for the driving job. It is greed to miss the tremendous commission the taxi drivers gets from nearly every business. I know by myself and have seen it that the Tuk Tuk drivers gets 50% commission when they will bring the tourists to a popular Spa here in Phuket. They get commission between 30% and 50% from gold shops, gems shops and pearl shops. Even the people from the elephant treks have to pay commission when guests arrive with Tuk Tuk's. Thats the point and not the "peanuts" they get from the fee for just being a taxi. Here we talk about "real" money. Greed is all and everything in this kind of business.

Posted by happychris on September 5, 2011 06:40

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I've just been walking in the hils above Patong and came across a beautiful new, modern built house. Guess what was parked outside - a shiny new tuk tuk. Just goes to show these hard done by guys don't have two baht to rub together and are vastly misunderstood. I call it valley of the taxis as there are so many up there.

Posted by Mister ree on September 5, 2011 11:58

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Good report, lets hope the hon consuls see this, and take some action from it ...

Posted by johndev on September 5, 2011 12:46

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@Mister Ree, next time take some pictures and post them online.

Posted by Anonymous on September 5, 2011 14:17

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Sadly the hotel manager will be in fear of his life if he does anything.
The police are scared of these Taxi and tuktuk thugs.
The governor is scared of the thugs.
Basically we now have a situation of Lawless Phuket.
Guess what, nobody really cares as the money just keeps rolling in.

Posted by lord jim on September 5, 2011 17:04

Editor Comment:

Why would the hotel manager be in fear of his life? Because you say so? Phuket's problems will only be overcome by courage.
Show some. Use your real name.

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It's time for the govenment in Bangkok to do something. The local govenment has showed it is worthless. Also it's time to follow the money and see where it leads. I am wiling to bet this is why nothing gets fixed and no one is jailed for serious crimes, such as assault with a deadly weapon.

Posted by Billy on September 5, 2011 17:26

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i used to be a regular visitor to kata beach, twice a year, as i live here. i will never return again. the mafia and violence is starting to get way out of hand, it's not a monthly or weekly news story anymore, but seems more like a daily news item. Just the ones reported. i am retired and live in thailand, and will continue to vacation elsewhere. phuket doesn't deserve my baht until they clean up the corruption, which will be never, so good bye phuket and pattaya. sewers of decay. som naa na

Posted by Anonymous on September 5, 2011 18:00

Editor Comment:

Phuket is not a ''sewer of decay'' yet - that's a great exaggeration - but much needs to change for Phuket to retain its good reputation without being overrun by lawless rip-off merchants.

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After asking my embassy for serious action, they send me a back a nice mail, in the end stating, that as long as tourists come enthusiastically to Phuket in great numbers even with the stuff happening and despite all warnings, one should not expect heavy handed approaches by Thai authorities to root out the problems.

That may be true, but it is a dangerous game. For Phuket now it is like a lake, the water still looking nice, small waves to be seen, but its getting cold and it may take only one more chilling breeze from the mountains and all of a sudden the lake will freeze completely and turn to ice. Can take five years, can be next season. One heavy incident, one story to much and all of the sudden its done, the lake frozen, the perception/image of Phuket in the world done for a long time. And when its done it will take a lot of afford to unfreeze it. These things take time to develop. First only a small well informed group is concerned, but when it is reaching a tipping point, its too late, then the mass of tourists will stay away. And even when it is cleaned up after that, it may take quite a while if ever. If I were invested in Phuket, I would be afraid of the ice.

Posted by Lena on September 5, 2011 18:17

Editor Comment:

I think the analogy is inappropriate, Lena, but your sentiments are spot on.

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Editor I think you tend to look at Phukets problems through rose tinted glasses. I have lived on Phuket Island for 10 years and before that in Pattaya.
Patong in particular is going the same way as Pattaya and soon will be unacceptable as a destination for a safe family holiday. The problems have existed for years without any improvement. Remember the schedule for removing all jet skis in 7 years? The 7 years have expired and the number of jet skis have increased several fold.
I have recived parking fines several times for parking in no parking areas, which I agree with but have seen tuk tuk drivers do the same and they have been ignored by the police. One law for me etc. etc.
Lately I have been spending time in Cambodia and Vietnam. I believe my future now will be in one of those countries.

Posted by Sam on September 5, 2011 21:45

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Well here we are again, I've lived in Thailand for 6 yrs now, and these issues have being going on and on !, i just hope with fb, twitter, etc the word is getting out there. It is a very dangerous place to visit now i live in Pattaya and have lived on Koh Phangan as well, the so called 'mafia' make it their business to intimidate and rip off the unsuspecting tourists and more and more it is turning into violence.
The Mayor of Pattaya opened a fb page, and has been inundated with complaints about the jet ski scammers, that's Mayor Kunplome, he has had to take action ,so has had meetings with the chief of pol, the Govenor of Chonburi Province has been drawn in by the UK Embassy etc and so far the culprits just have to register with the City Hall nad have insurance.
Well we all know, this is bull, and the scams will continue, why? well as many have stated, these guys have power over the authorities and it seems they are more important than the tourist that give them their income ! They have to be banned or the trouble will get to breaking point. Keep blogging, get the word out there.

Posted by Pete on September 9, 2011 09:15

Editor Comment:

There's certainly a problem or two but the vast majority of people still have a very enjoyable holiday on Phuket.

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Heyyy..its a simple solution..I have been to Phuket over 20 times. I will never ever use a Tuk Tuk again and have not for many years. This problem is not new. . I use a motorbike and have had no problems with either renting or accidents. Do not speed and park correctly. I appreciate motor scooters are not for everyone. Hire a car..Or better if you are doing day trips use a guide. There are many alternatives. The only way these Rip off Tuk Tuk drivers will change is to significantly reduce or cut off there income streams .
Basically be a little more independent and find an alternative.

Posted by Anonymous on September 9, 2011 13:35

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Agree 100% with Staf; as long as local Phuket government officials and police officers are involved, there won't be any change. It will get worse and worse, with the Phuket taxi and tuk-tuk mafia being free to overcharge and threaten tourists and locals alike. Time for international tour operators to 'drop' Phuket from their list of holiday destinations.

Posted by Tourist on September 12, 2011 08:36

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have cancelled my holiday in phuket, its run by thugs and corrupt people

Posted by mm on September 12, 2011 18:44

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All you guys can write about Phuket how much you want. How many would be tourist's are going to read about this in "Phuket Wan". All these problems need to be ADVERTISED in overseas Newspapers on a regular basis.

Posted by robert on September 15, 2011 13:48

Editor Comment:

Thousands of people who already know about Phuketwan or Google Phuket read Phuketwan twice a day, daily, or perhaps once in a lifetime, robert. Advertising in newspapers overseas would be seen by thousands of people with absolutely no interest in the topic. There's no point. Besides, most people who have a holiday on Phuket have a wonderful time. Even the Dawsons gave Cape Sienna four stars on tripadvisor. Our concern is to make Phuket an even better place, free from this shocking thuggery and intimidation. Of course, if you have the money to spare, please advertise.

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am just back from phuket, patong motorcycle 100 baht tuk tuk was 200, it never changed or varied, i saw no trouble what so ever in 8 days i was there. surely having a fix price is the best solution, that way we all know what we pay.

Posted by kenny on September 30, 2011 21:11

Editor Comment:

Kenny, the issue is more about realistic pricing, real value, and real alternatives. If you don't have the sense you were being ripped off, great. Clearly, you didn't travel far.

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Many thanks for all Info!!Unfortunately, I read about all this rip-off and violences to late. We shall come to Phuket next week and my wife isn??t sleeping well already. We selected Phuket as we never experienced something similar in our past multiple stays in Bkk, Koh Samui, Hua Hin and even on Phuket, 12 years ago. We shurely wouldn??t have choosen Phuket again, if we??d read before. We want to have a nice time, not feeling like in a bronx-like battle. We shurely shall avoid Tuk-Tuk and Jet-Ski at all and do hope, to return healthy. I do agree, that Phuket-Tourism-Money is on the edge of vanishing, as those issues are spreading trough the internet. There are many alternative nice places, in Thailand and the rest of the world.

Posted by Tom on October 17, 2011 20:03

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@ Tom
Do not worry that much. Here are a few advices for you to have a perfectly save holiday in Phuket:
- As soon as you get here, guy find yourself a weapon (easy to find, many dealers have booth on the streets).
- Contact a bodyguard agency (they are flourishing here) and ask for 3-4 ex-Marines to escort you 24/7.
- Rent a bulletproof car for your travels (army tanks also available but a bit too slow to drive around).
- Make sure your hotel is surrounded by a mines field and have a bunker underneath.

Hey Tom, seriously, relax! You're gonna have wonderful holidays in Phuket!
Hope your wife can sleep better now.

Posted by Wordless on October 18, 2011 09:36


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