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Cruise passengers on Phuket were blockaded by taxi drivers

Phuket Taxi Drivers Content to Wave Farewell to Cruises

Sunday, April 10, 2011
THE BIG test for Phuket's taxi drivers to deal honestly and fairly with visitors will come with the arrival of the next American aircraft carrier and accompanying destroyers.

Visited so far in successive years by the giant carriers USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Nimitz, Phuket usually gains one carrier for liberty leave each year, with about 5000 Navy personnel looking for transportation from the deep sea port on Phuket's east coast to Patong on the west coast.

Last week's four-hour blockade of cruise liner passengers is likely to have raised the concerns of US security officials about the next visit by an aircraft carrier.

US officials will not want a repetition of previous US Navy blockades - and Phuket officials last year promised them there would be no more problems with local taxi drivers, a promise that Phuket now seems unable to keep.

The leader of the local taxis involved in this week's dispute, Narong Kumbaan, told Phuketwan today: ''We don't have any problems with the US Navy.'' However, extensive talks involving US officials are known to have taken place after a series of blockades by local taxi drivers.

''If cruise ships come and we don't get any benefits, we are not concerned if they don't come. Mai ben rai (Never mind),'' Khun Narong said.

About 180 local taxi drivers on Wednesday prevented most of the 475 passengers from the luxury liner Silver Spirit enjoying a day's outing on Phuket, blockading the port for several hours and eventually winning a negotiated concession that they would glean 50 percent of future business.

Whether the Silversea line wishes to continue to visit Phuket will probably be discussed at a high level within the cruise line's management. Many of the passengers were upset at being prevented from a day's outing by the taxi drivers, and there are alternative destinations where cruise ships would be eagerly greeted.

''We provide a good taxi service for them,'' Khun Narong said today, perhaps overlooking the high cost and conditions in most of the cabs.

Phuketwan understands that many US Navy crews enjoy Phuket and what the island has to offer as a liberty port. However, whether it remains a port of preference for the US Navy may not be up to them.

Senior US Embassy officials are likely to again demand a guarantee from Phuket administrators that problems will not arise in future.

Despite a previous promise, the latest bout of trouble for the US Navy came in late March, when police had to be called to settle a dispute between local drivers and the crew of the destroyer USS Decatur.

Phuket expat residents have been calling out for years for national government intervention to end the monopolies held by local taxis and the island's peculiar four-wheel open-air tuk-tuk vehicles, which charge similar extortionate rates for both short and long trips.

The going fare demanded by local taxi drivers on Wednesday for trips from the Phuket east coast port to Phuket City was 500 baht, and they were asking 1500 baht for the trip of about 30 minutes across the island to Patong.

Today Khun Narong rejected one argument of critics, that the taxi drivers need to contribute to the international marketing of Phuket if they are to demand such high fares.

''Marketing is not our job,'' he said. ''We run the taxi service.'' He is not fussed if more cruise ships opt to anchor off Patong, on the other side of the island, or ignore Phuket completely.

''Never mind,'' he repeated. Most of the drivers are part-time, although with the high fares that can be obtained, some have quit less lucrative jobs in resorts to drive full-time.

''This problem is caused because the people who bring the tourists need to help the local people as well,'' Khun Narong reiterated. ''They shouldn't be too selfish.''
Update: Phuket Standoff as Taxis Blockade Cruise Liner
Photo Album/UPDATE Local Phuket taxi drivers take the law into their own hands and again blockade cruise liner passengers as Phuket's public transport crisis escalates.
Update: Phuket Standoff as Taxis Blockade Cruise Liner

Phuket Police Intervene in US Navy, Local Taxi Dispute
Latest As a welcoming party celebrated the arrival of a US Navy destroyer off Phuket, word came of a dispute involving local port tuk tuk and taxi drivers who wanted their fare share of the visitors.
Phuket Police Intervene in US Navy, Local Taxi Dispute

Phuket Taxi Driver Raped Me, Says Swedish Tourist
Latest A Swedish tourist visiting Phuket has told police that she was raped by a taxi driver. Police in Chalong are questioning a man about the accusation.
Phuket Taxi Driver Raped Me, Says Swedish Tourist

Phuket's Billion Baht Medical Hub Targets Japanese
Latest Phuket is to be home to a one billion baht medical hub that targets long term retiree visitors from Japan, Phuketwan has learned.
Phuket's Billion Baht Medical Hub Targets Japanese

Phuket Consuls Seek Better Coverage of Envoys' Summit
Latest Two honorary consuls have talked with Phuket's governor about potential improvements to the regular quarterly summits with Phuket's envoys.
Phuket Consuls Seek Better Coverage of Envoys' Summit

Phuket Share Touts Fined at Airport: Crackdown Call
Latest Two time share touts are fined - at Phuket International Airport. Passengers complain to the TAT as a call comes for more serious action to curb tout activities.
Phuket Share Touts Fined at Airport: Crackdown Call

Phuket Giant 'Heaven' Pool Under Construction
UPDATE A giant pool beside Karon beach is already being constructed as part of the 'Kata Karon Heaven on Earth' project, to revitalise the destination at a cost of 40 million baht.
Phuket Giant 'Heaven' Pool Under Construction


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''We provide a good taxi service for them,'' Khun Narong said today, perhaps overlooking the high cost and conditions in most of the cabs.

If it truly was a good service, there would be no threat from competing services, as people are happy to pay a fair (non cartel) market price.

The arrogance of these groups is simply astounding. If the rest of the islands businesses lose out, we do not care if we don't get to rip them off first.

Posted by LivinLOS on April 10, 2011 14:28


Pot, kettle, black accusing others of being selfish Khun Narong. The problem with burying one's head in the sand in Phuket is that you are likely to stumble across garbage already buried in the beach, and this tends to come out of one's mouth when you extract from the sand!! If they're not bothered about the business, why the protests?

Posted by Mister Ree on April 10, 2011 14:33


They are just acting the same way their Patrons further up in the "Thai Food Chain" acts: Rip off as many people as you can, this is Thai-entrepreneurship in action, not so much creative thinking and free market policy!

The Head Honchos in politics do it, the business Tycoons do it, the street vendor do it, and the TukTuk and Taxi m**** does it. Nothing unusual in this, this is Asia...

Posted by BOM on April 10, 2011 14:58


''If cruise ships come and we don't get any benefits, we are not concerned if they don't come. Mai ben rai (Never mind),''

What a bunch of selfish so and so's ! if they can not make any business - why should others on the Island !

''Marketing is not our job,'' he said. ''We run the taxi service.''
in other words: pay us or walk !

Posted by Oliver S on April 10, 2011 15:56


So the taxi drivers don't care if their actions cause cruise ships to stop visiting Phuket and they blame those who don't want to pay extortionate fares for being selfish by not "helping out the locals" i.e. his own little Mob.

This is a man blaming others for being selfish ?

He seems totally oblivious and ignorant to the fact their actions cause loss of business to thousands of others on Phuket.

Khun Narong wouldn't understand fair play if it hit him with a truck.

He doesn't seem to grasp that HE DOES NOT OWN the island of Phuket. It's NOT up to him to decide who can visit Phuket and on what terms but this is what the spineless local authorities have allowed him to do.

Are the authorities really going to allow a small group of selfish hooligans to kill the Cruise Ship business on Phuket that brings in hundreds of millions of Baht in revenue every year ?

TAT - Governor - Interior Ministy - HELLO !

Is anyone listening ?


Posted by Chris on April 10, 2011 16:15


Phuket has to choice between : taxi drivers interests or tourist away for ever... It is incredible that the Phuket's Authorities are not able to impose the taxi drivers (and tuk tuk) to respect the interest of all the touristic business of the Island! What a loss of money for everybody due to taxis and tuk tuk deal!

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2011 17:16


If the provincial government and police can't control a bunch of cab drivers what hope is there for the country. Cruise ships and naval vessels don't just appear by magic, their arrival is scheduled.
If the provincial government can't control these cowboys then perhaps the military should be called in. It's time the police and provincial government grew a pair. Arrest the lot of them and have some big bloody bulldozers standing by to clear any traffic jam they cause.
How about a new ordinance making interfering with the tourism industry an offense punishable by steep fines, confiscation of items used in the commitment of the offense and mandatory jail time?
Jetski scams, unprotected dangerous beaches, and a public transport m**** that govern the island. Amazing Thailand

Posted by John Le Fevre on April 10, 2011 17:16


thank you Khun Narong for sharing your feelings and thoughts with us on the people who house and feed your family. i am quite happy to pass this article along to the cruiseline industry, tourism reps, other tourism sites, and sea tour travel agency. i hope others will do as well.

Posted by john s on April 10, 2011 17:20


As others have commented in this thread:

"Hallo??? - is anyone listening in TAT and the provincial government??"

The arrogance of Khun Narong is almost unbelievable.

The silence from the provincial government, TAT and police authorities is deafening!!

As Chris said:



Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 10, 2011 18:53


positive seen: they (Mr. Narong) do the best to give us back the Phuket we loved 20 Years ago. A third of tourists, empty beaches......hopefully the price for transportation and rooms will then adjust as well.

Posted by Oliver S. on April 10, 2011 19:34


You can't allow people like this to dictate terms to the life blood of this island and Thailand THE TOURIST . Enforce the law, arrest and impound the vehicles of those among this mob who wish to prevent the Navy or Cruise lines hiring suitable vehicles of their own choice to ferry their customers / personnel in SAFE, INSURED AND TESTED VEHICLES it's not rocket science for the powers that be to sort this mob out before we all lose millions or if they can't, hand it over to someone that can in BK.

Posted by Scunner on April 11, 2011 02:07


''If cruise ships come and we don't get any benefits, we are not concerned if they don't come. Mai ben rai (Never mind),'' Khun Narong said. The most stupid thing I ever heard! The minivan drivers for tour companies, are they not locals? Give me a break! And should not the tour company, guides, other professional drivers (not part time police and other who do not find any place), restaurants and shops on Phuket be able to earn money because there are too many taxis expecting to get rich in one rip off drive? Get real! There is a difference between guided tours and taxi transfers! Lack of brain everywhere.

Posted by Hockey on April 11, 2011 12:48


TAT is just a joke organisation.

Narong is right, they (the **fia) won't care if tourists go away, because they'll all put on "red" uniforms after that and sack the capital and turn this into Myanmar or Cambodia, where they won't have to work at all.

They can sit in back rooms playing cards like the bosses in Laos, while youngsters hang out front with AK's.

Burned out taxis and trips to the hospital and jail are all these gangsters understand. Even then, you'll never shake them.

This, like the jet ski scam, aren't going anywhere.

Posted by JingJing on April 11, 2011 13:45


i had no idea that Khun Narong is an ambassador for Phuket's tourist business, does he have an office that i can present him with my loss and every other business on the islands loss?

Posted by lord Jim on April 11, 2011 13:49


'If cruise ships come and we don't get any benefits, we are not concerned if they don't come. Mai ben rai (Never mind),'' Khun Narong said.

Why should the rest of us be concerned if those people loose their jobs?

Posted by Hotel Owner in Patong on April 11, 2011 14:19


Who cares anymore I stopped visiting 5 years ago let them rot. Past governors have tried and failed, so why should we spend our money in that Hell hole that is Phuket.

Posted by william Dale on April 11, 2011 18:10


It's a point I'm tired and despairing of making, but the way this problem will be solved isn't by co-opting the hucksters and charlatans of the taxi feds, but by either local or national government instituting an island-wide public transport system.

That's a proper 'public transport' system, as understood by grown-ups the world over: run by the state, offering cheap fares and untouchable from interference from outside vested interests.

The fact that none exists on Phuket - and there is no prospect of real public transport coming - suggests that some people are benefitting too much from the present arrangement. But that can't be true, can it?

It's only when Phuket has earned a reputation as a rip-off capital and a down-market kip that most wealthy tourists have fled that some very wealthy hotel and resort owners will begin to kick up a fuss. And by then, it will be too late.

Posted by Doug on April 11, 2011 19:53


JingJing, it is not fair to compare Phuket Tuk Tuk drivers to Cambodia.

In Cambodia there are metred taxis available 24/7 and the Tuk Tuk drivers are friendly, polite and willing to negotiate a fair price to get your business. They even smile!

Posted by Rob on April 11, 2011 19:55


a loss of face to admit they ( taxi boss) caused the curse ships to ignore phuket. but a perceived face gain to claim they don't care.

gives the impression (amongst them at least) that they are too big to be hurt by the loss of revenue.

Posted by mikey on April 11, 2011 22:26


Delusional, selfish & incompetent.

Posted by kel on April 12, 2011 07:34


Yep, this is exactly the attitude that is making people reconsider coming to Phuket and going to Bali instead.
The Govt needs to grow some goolies and sort out the tourism issues, not just black taxis, before it's too late.
There are friendlier destinations opening up in the region with better beaches and mush better ATTITUDES.
Wake up Phuket!!

Posted by Junior on April 12, 2011 08:10

gravatar stop Krabi. Bye bye Phuket. This just gets worse and worse. Even talking about it is now painful. It's like rubbing salt into a wound. Nothing will change. If everyone behaved like this, just think what the world would be like. There must be so much corruption that nothing can be done. Sickening.

Posted by mike hunt on April 13, 2011 19:27


Its already too late junior its not just taxi's you can blame jj too. The governor was aware of the problems but did not act or was unable to act.It is no good blaming the taxi drivers for your problems rip offs and scams have been reported for years yet no 1 did anything now its to late.

Posted by william Dale on April 14, 2011 01:35


LivinLOS said: "If the rest of the islands businesses lose out, we do not care if we don't get to rip them off first."

Yes, it's all relative to these people, i.e. they are happy if they don't make money from these ships as long as no one else does.

So they stay in the same position on the income ladder and don't see their position being usurped by others making more money than them.

It keeps them happy, similar to "misery loves company".

Posted by Mike Boyd on April 19, 2011 23:07

Wednesday March 29, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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