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The Mayor of Kata-Karon, Tawee Tongcham, reports to the task force today

More Phuket Resorts Asked to Detail Tuk-Tuk, Taxi Extortion, Intimidation by Task Force Commander

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
PHUKET: The surge to clean up Phuket's tuk-tuks and taxi ''untouchables'' continued this afternoon with the chief investigator calling on other resorts and tourism businesses to come forward to lay complaints.

''All information will be dealt with in confidence and we won't reveal the identity of witnesses,'' he said as Phuket's taxi task force processed 73 people arrested today from Karon, Cherng Talay and Kamala.

The Mayor of Kata-Karon, Tawee Tongcham, was among those being held tonight. He is accused of abusing his position in aiding the illegal taxi drivers.

Other mayors are expected to be swept up in the investigation, headed by former Phuket Deputy Commander Major General Praveen Pongsirin, now of Region 8 headquarters.

The Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission will pursue cases involving elected office-bearers.

Today's raids involved a total of 1150 plain-clothes soldiers, Tourist Police, governor's volunteers and Phuket police - plus 155 police brought from Phang Nga, Krabi and Nakhorn Si Tammarat.

Those arrested are from Karon, Cherng Talay and Kamala. Bail was denied them all and the three groups were being held in separate locations tonight, pending appearances at Phuket Provincial Court tomorrow.

Most of those charged face intimidation, extortion or abduction counts, with the mayor charged with aiding and abetting taxi drivers who allegedly operated from a stretch of public parking space near the Kata-Karon municipal offices, using the council water supply and council power.

Police said today that it was not uncommon for tourists to be ''abducted'' into taxis unwillingly or for the drivers to say: ''If you want to take your guests in your vehicle and leave the resort without trouble, give us 600 baht'' or ''give us 1000 baht.''

Major General Praveen said he reckoned the taxi drivers and others like them ''have caused a billion baht's worth of damage to Phuket's tourism.''

His message to resorts and tour agents was: ''Don't allow these gangs to grow stronger. Report your problems to us.''

Via security cameras, anonymous protected witnesses watched the suspects being brought to the Crime Crisis Centre at Phuket Police Station to be fingerprinted and processed.

The investigation began about a year ago but for Region 8 Police Commander Major General Panya Mamen, the raids and arrests today culminated a 10-year wait.

As a Tourist Police commander and later as Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, he could see the scale of Phuket's problem and shared the frustration of local authorities in not being able to solve it.

The military coup of May 22 posed the perfect opportunity for action in tandem with the Army, although all those charged today were charged under regular criminal laws, not military laws.

He was pleased to say that there have been no protests against the arrests - although it's not unusual for Phuket people to express their displeasure with a blockade.

It appears as though the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers have no support beyond their own ranks.

Residents together with tourists have been ripped off for years.

''We could always see that Phuket needed help to solve this problem,'' Major General Panya said. ''Now we can finally say that the law will be enforced.''

Someone even suggested that it may possibly not be too late to find the locals who blockaded Thepkasattri Road, Phuket's main artery, not long ago, preventing access to and from Phuket International Airport for hours, so that they could be charged, too.

The officer who led the army contingent today, Major General Peerapol Wirayakul, Commanding General, 41st Military Circle, said the aim of the soldiers joining forces with police was to ''bring peace and happiness to Phuket residents and tourists.''

''We fully support what the Phuket authorities are asking us to support,'' he said. ''If there are more problems, we will use martial law to bring them to an end if we have to.''

Bouquets of flowers were presented to the key people at today's meeting at Phuket Police Headquarters, with Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud and Vice Governor Jamleran Tipayapongtada representing the Phuket administration.

Phuket Tourist Association marketing vice president Bhuritt Maswongsa told journalists that the lifting of the curfew had already brought a surge in bookings for Phuket and flights were filling up fast.

''We are rapidly returning to normal,'' he said. ''And now there is something new - tourists can see that we have 100 percent law enforcement on Phuket.

''This is extremely positive for tourism, and for the safety and security of everybody on Phuket.''

Dr Krisada Tansakul, the President of the Thai Hotels Association (Southern Chapter), said that today's action was entirely due to the hundreds of tourists who over the years had complained to honorary consuls on Phuket or to embassies in Bangkok about the behavior of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers on Phuket.

''Perhaps this is the chance to create a 'Phuket model' in how to crack down on local mafia,'' he said. Members of the THA were very willing to supply information to police, he added.

Resort owner and developer Maitree Narukatpichai said there were not just a few people who complained, but many.

The process of bringing the problem to the attention of authorities began with the tourists and with the honorary consuls, and continued when European Union ambassadors met on Phuket a year ago, he said.

''We have to continue this good work and sort out all of Phuket's problems,'' he said.

Major General Praveen Pongsirin, who speaks good Thai, is on 081 8936083.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Good for Phuket and good for Thailand. Why not implement this kind of action all over lawless Thailand? THAT's what's needed, not some stupid dream about "democrazy"!

Posted by Wilai on June 4, 2014 19:53

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This whole episode is amazing, I never thought anybody would dare to confront these intimidating untouchable thugs that we have had to live with for so many years.

Posted by Rod on June 4, 2014 19:57

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you haven't been reading Phuketwan, Rod.

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I would have guessed the major speeks very good Thai.

Posted by Jakub P. on June 4, 2014 20:44

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I am delighted at what I am reading - & the manner in which it is being reported & updated. Finally a change for the better, with hope for Phuket.

One step at a time to improve the infrastructure:

Tuk tuks & taxis first.

Then land encroachment.

Then removal of corrupt officials.

Then strict building controls.

Then a badly needed clean up of the beaches.

May Phuket eventually become the 'Pearl of the Andaman' again.

Posted by Logic on June 4, 2014 20:59

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hear hear logic

Posted by logical on June 4, 2014 21:36

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Great news!!!

Posted by angelo on June 4, 2014 22:27

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Well done superheroes !!! LONG LIVE THE ARMY... anyone involed to make this change is my super heroes...easy like that.

Posted by frog on June 4, 2014 22:57

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Yes I fully agree to the manner of the constant updating of the reports coming in. May this clean up rid Phuket of most of its ills, once and for all. Then we can truly be proud to have a clean administration here. Wow I am feeling happier already. I hope these chaps don't do a runner and leave after the cleanup, 'cos then we will be back to square one. Please stay O Mighty Ones.

Posted by Robin on June 4, 2014 23:15

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Just tell them to read Trip Advisor.. Google Taxi Mafia Phuket in the search.
Also Phuket Forums. Plenty of info there! :)
This is good news and nice to see people of Phuket show there support and solidarity!!! Finally a glimmer of hope!!!

Posted by Vfaye on June 4, 2014 23:17

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Is their a web site / email address to send in complaints against the taxi mafia .. ? I have some info to report but am no longer living in Thailand .

Posted by Danny on June 5, 2014 06:11

Editor Comment:

Send it to editor@phuketwan.com and we'll pass it on.

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For a very long time many readers have said "bring in the Army to sort out the problems in Phuket". Now it has finally happened. It is so nice to have some positive results so soon. We all had our hopes up (then dashed) when the DSI arrived some time ago. Now with these arrests and NO BAIL, there is real hope for change. So happy they also arrested the Mayor or Karon. The taxi "groups" would not have been able to do what they do without help from officials. I would bet that there is a lot of fear in other Mayor's offices these days. I am really looking forward to some positive results in the land encroachment cases. This is all great news and great hope for the future.

Posted by Tim on June 5, 2014 09:31

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To me this is brilliant news.Two years ago I was punched in the face by one of these thugs who operated from the slum sala by the Freedom Bar Rawai. My only crime is that I sounded my horn as he nearly hit my car.I too will pass the details on to you Ed as at the time he said I could to nothing to him. Maybe he might be wrong

Posted by stu on June 5, 2014 10:45

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@Tim: "For a very long time many readers have said 'bring in the Army to sort out the problems in Phuket'. "

My hand is up!

Posted by Smithy on June 5, 2014 17:27


Monday July 6, 2020
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