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Phuket's Surin beach today, with the car park being cleared for public use

Phuket Purge Clears Surin Space: Taxi, Tuk-Tuk Drivers Now Share Fear Around

Saturday, June 7, 2014
PHUKET: Fear is still the main factor as the Phuket taxi and tuk-tuk task force pursues the ''untouchables'' and the corruption that has been the holiday island's main handicap for the entire 21st century.

But the fear is now being spread among the notoriously bad-behaving drivers and the people who support them.

The taxi stand hut at Phuket's Surin beach toppled yesterday and today the demolishers returned to pull down 32 vendor's stalls that have blocked the car park for years.

The scene was virtually unrecognisable. Space for people to park cars! Locals could not believe it.

And that's the problem. Can the push to end the corruption and the years of tuk-tuk and taxi driver intimidation be believed?

Not far from Surin beach, managers in classy resorts were delighted to have the eyesore that was the local taxi ''mafia'' hangout pulled down and carted off, as at many places in Kamala, Patong and Cherng Talay.

But when an effort was made to bring in legitimate drivers, the legitimate drivers hesitated. ''How can we be sure those other guys won't come back?'' they asked.

Taxis and tuk-tuks have become much harder to find along Phuket's west coast - and true to form, some drivers are asking holidaymakers to pay 20 percent more for their far-from-luxurious services.

Everyone wants to know whether the police mean what they have been saying this time, or whether, as in previous crackdowns, the situation is a temporary show.

The police are saying that enforcement of the law is here to stay.

Phuket has heard that before. But this time, the signs are more positive than ever before - and the stars appear to be in alignment.

Investigators were raiding homes in Kamala this morning, looking for suspects and documents. The task force team that has already turned up bank accounts totalling more than 100 million baht for one taxi driver won't stop until all the corrupt networks have been exposed.

This means linking the drivers and their mobs to local appointed and elected officials, and punishing those who have condoned or benefitted from the control that the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers have wielded over the island for years.

Where will the exposure stop?

What if examination of the bank accounts of various local officials incriminates not only Phuket taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, but also expat businesspeople who have bent the law, to their profit?

Region 8 Police Commander and Task Force Chief, Major General Panya Mamen, said yesterday that enforcement will be 100 percent on Phuket from now on: ''We will use every aspect of law enforcement to bring criminals under control and to protect witnesses.''

Major General Panya's view is in alignment with the determination expressed on national television last night by coup commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who said Thailand's ailments must be properly fixed or there's no point in maintaining military control.

The army's delegation of 100 soldiers formed just a small but important part of the task force of 1150 troops, police and volunteers who conducted a series of swoops on drivers this week in the Kata-Karon district - Phuket's most notorious area for tuk-tuk and taxi extortion and intimidation.

Those cases are to be compiled and provided to the Phuket Public Prosecutor by July 15, the major general said.

Then the heat will be turned on Patong, where the taxi and tuk-tuk network is said to be as large, but controlled by fewer people.

Comments

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Let's hope this purge also includes the airport carpark. The taxi mafia have taken up just about every single parking parking space at the airport, and it is almost impossible for the bona fide traveler to find a spot there.

Posted by Phil on June 7, 2014 11:39

Editor Comment:

The opening of the new five-floor car park in 2015 is likely to set a practical deadline for control over the taxis at Phuket airport. More widely experienced managers from Suvarnabhumi are now in place. The signs are good that taxis will have to be called in one by one and form an orderly queue - outside the airport perimeter.

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Having lunch at Surin now - marvelous to see the shabby taxi shacks being torn down! :-)

Posted by Amazing thailand on June 7, 2014 11:42

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I am happy!
But I am also worried that as soon as the Army let the Police work alone all those problems will come back.

I wish and hope that General Prayuth will continue in cleaning up Thailand and stay in control for many years to come for the benefit of Thailand and to make Thailand a better place for everyone with rule of Law, good education for all Thai's, fair and ethical courts and better systems.

Posted by Mr. K on June 7, 2014 12:19

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Authorities, keep up the good work. Phuketwan, keep up the timely, thoughtful coverage!

Posted by ssresident on June 7, 2014 12:32

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This just gets better and better.I hope they get down to Rawai and Nai Harn soon especially the thugs opposite Nikita's

Posted by rich on June 7, 2014 14:17

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I hope they make their way down to Nai Harn and Rawai!

Posted by Jim McGowan on June 7, 2014 15:42

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At last light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by slickmelb on June 7, 2014 21:32


Tuesday August 20, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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