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Douglas H. Robinson with Vice Governor Treerayut Eamtakul today

Phuket Taxi Blockades Bring Government Action

Monday, June 21, 2010
A SPECIAL committee will be set up on Phuket to ensure there is no repetition of a taxi and tuk-tuk blockade that tarnished the most recent visit of US Navy personnel to the island.

It was the third incident involving blockades of US Navy personnel by Phuket's taxi and tuk-tuk drivers at the island's deep sea port, Vice Governor Treerayut Eamtakul was told by a senior US Embassy official when the men met at Provincial Hall in Phuket City today.

Douglas H. Robinson, Chief, Navy Security, Force Protection Detachment, was assured by the vice governor that there would be no fourth incident, and that Phuket felt a ''sense of shame'' about what had happened.

Vice Governor Treerayut undertook to oversee the operation of the committee. He also said that a full investigation will be held into the latest incident so that he can be told the causes when he returns from a two-week visit to Australia, which begins tomorrow.

Visitors from the US military and vessels from the fleets of other navies required a level of protection that was greater than the security provided for normal tourists, the vice governor said. The drivers involved in the latest dispute felt the local van drivers were getting some business, but that the taxi drivers were not.

The two men spoke for 40 minutes, with Commander Rachan Sritakkon, Chief of the Intelligence Section of the Third Naval Area Command, and Bhuritt Maswongssa, Vice President of the Phuket Tourist Association, also adding to the conversation.

While the blockade on June 13 was downplayed by the US embassy at the time, today's visit by Mr Robinson emphasised the seriousness of the incident. A repetition would almost certainly put at risk the future of visits by US vessels, which have provided a regular fillip for Phuket tourism since 2008.

A US representative will be part of the new committee, which will also include the vice governor, local authorities, police, and the Royal Thai Navy.

With Phuket's Provincial Hall central administration now formally involved, the drivers will in effect be taking on the government of Thailand if they repeat the blockade.

After today's meeting, Mr Robinson told Phuketwan that the previous incidents had involved large numbers of crew on large vessels, but the June 13 incident involved a small number of crew.

''Everything else has been wonderful,'' he said. ''Phuket is one of our favorite places for ships to come. It's very convenient for ships to stop off in Phuket.

''There's plenty of things to do, and plenty of places for our people to stay. The people are very hospitable and the food is excellent. We've had very very few problems in the past.''

He said he was happy with the response from the vice governor, and with the suggestion of a committee to oversee future visits.

''Because of the security stance that we have in place at the port, the taxis have to remain right outside the port. This time it was vans, the previous two times it was buses.

''In the previous two incidents, the drivers appeared displeased that they were not getting enough business from the sailors walking out to their taxis.

''We understand the taxi drivers have a livelihood and they do get business from our sailors on Phuket. One thing that the US Navy does and will continue to do is to provide transport for our sailors as a courtesy from the port [at Cape Panwa on the east coast] to Patong and back.

''After that, the sailors then have the opportunity to use taxis to go anywhere on the island that they want to go.''

Restrictions on taxis from one zone picking up passengers in other zones probably mean that the drivers around the port only have one chance to pick up US sailors as passengers.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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While its superb to hear at least one small subgroup of the visitors to Phuket have enough clout to ensure they get honest treatment, what about the 100's of 1000's of other visitors, of hotels forced to use them or face the consequences, of continual price fixing and menaces.

No one has a 'right' to the work, there needs to be a free market, and competition within it. Then passengers can choose the service they wish and prices might reflect those of other areas within Thailand.

Posted by LivinLOS on June 21, 2010 13:18

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This is good news. Thailand needs to promote a new rejuvenated attitude towards tourism. Or tourism, like it is now, will suffer great harm, and other destinations will fill the void. The Navy ships go beyond tourism, into re-supply business and international diplomacy and good will with the United States Government. Shame on Thailand for allowing a bunch of unlicensed renegade thugs destroy the very industry they cater to. Taxis need tourists. If you treat guests to your country like that, Sum Num Na. Don't cry when no one comes here anymore.

Posted by Reid Ridgway on June 21, 2010 14:14

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They should do themselves a favor and sail to Pattaya or the Philippines. This is beyond a joke.

Posted by Mike Hunt. on June 21, 2010 15:32

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I hear that today the tuk tuk drivers are not allowing the gondoliers to ferry people up and down San Sabai.

Posted by donmphkt on June 21, 2010 16:02

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The authorities have the opportunity to use the initial incident in one of two ways.

They can make sure that US navy personnel are not subject to such treatment in the future, get some police back-up for each US navy arrival and make sure the local tuk tuks are aware of the ground rules.

Or they can use it as a spur to introduce metering, fixed prices, minimum prices, create new bus routes and create a freer market that benefits each and every single visitor to Phuket.

I wonder which one they'll choose?

Posted by Doug on June 21, 2010 18:54

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Well guess what? I have two friends from South Africa here, been here a day and already they are pissed off for being ripped-off by taxis.

Posted by Graham on June 21, 2010 20:16

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^^^^^ and South African taxi drivers and hotels haven't vastly inflated their prices over the World Cup. Phuket's no different than any other destination - there's always a con.

Posted by Mister Ree on June 21, 2010 21:17

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So this is the third incident yet no arrests. When are we going to see some stern action from the governor like arresting people that damage or to use the vice governors words " people that bring a sense of shame to phuket.'' They're quick enough to lock tourists up. Incidentally Editor, is JJ still in work or has he been punished yet?

Editor: As far as we are aware, William, the case against JJ still falls into the difficult-to-prove category because of claims that the dramatic television footage was playacting. It's pointless bringing a case without the chance of a conviction. JJ maintains his innocence. Again you resort to using the generalisation ''they.'' There is no ''they.'' Police operate separately to the governor, who has no authority over them, although he clearly has considerable influence at times.

Posted by William Dale on June 21, 2010 23:32

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Now we are headed in the right direction. I just hope the self serving boys of the Navy League don't get involved!

Posted by Chalong Boy on June 23, 2010 05:32

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Hey, Mr Ree, in South Africa FIFA pushed the prices up to line someone's dirty little pockets ok. Fact remains, SA has a million plus more tourists per year, than Phuket the island.
Compare the like ok, not a massive country with a durian.

Posted by Graham on June 23, 2010 09:47

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"graham-
so fifa issued a mandate that all hotels should increase their prices for the duration of the world cup??
stop talking nonsense - local businesses saw an opportunity to make a killing and they took it!!
ripping off one tourist is just as bad as ripping off another!!

Posted by another steve on June 29, 2010 12:48

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Errrrrrrrm Graham Phuket is an island which comprises part of Thailand. To draw a comparison between one small island and an entire country is frankly ridiculous. I doubt FIFA directed South African Airlines, hotels, taxi drivers and other business owners to boost their prices.

Posted by Mister Ree on June 29, 2010 19:49

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Mr Ree, I rest my case.
Not worth commenting on your comment. Get to know the facts, please. I rest, your honor.

Posted by Graham on June 29, 2010 21:01

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Feel free to present your facts or is the bag just empty of wind? Any tourist destination takes advantage - you think the Olympics in London is not going to be the same? Bear in mind that London IS on an island so I guess the comparison is just!

Posted by Mister Ree on July 2, 2010 23:24


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