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DSI officers have arrested two men accused of being Phuket's taxi ''mafia''

Phuket Taxi 'Mafia' Arrests: Two Accused of Intimidation, Extortion at Central Festival Ranks

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

PHUKET: Two men arrested on Phuket stand accused of ''mafia style'' intimidation and extortion, a joint statement issued by the Minister of Tourism and Sport and the Commander of the Royal Thai Police has announced.

Minister Somsak Pureesrisak and Thailand Commander General Adul Saengsingkaew said the arrested men headed the taxi rank at Phuket's Central Festival shopping mall in Phuket City.

The arrested men are Pom Sukkasem, 42, who was nabbed in Rassada Moo 5 and Sern Sukkasem, 52, who was held in Vichit Moo 2.

Both arrests were made by Department of Special Investigation officers on Phuket about 1.30pm on Sunday, the statement said.

The pair controlled 170 drivers and organised beatings and intimidated tuk-tuk and taxi non-member drivers who dropped passengers at the Central Festival mall, the statement said.

Each of the 170 drivers in the Central Festival collective paid 200 baht every month for membership, the statement said. The pair controlled the Central Festival taxi queues.

''These men were carrying out a campaign of intimidation and extortion,'' Khun Somsak added. He said he had complaints from 16 embassies and from social networks about taxi and tuk-tuk drivers around Thailand, but especially about the drivers on Phuket.

''These people are ruining the image of tourism in Thailand,'' he said. The two men have denied all charges.

Department of Special Investigation officers arrived on Phuket on August 9 to begin a campaign to tackle corruption on Phuket, especially in the taxi and tuk-tuk transport business where high fares and poor service have brought complaints from tourists.

The first arrests were promised within 30 days.

The DSI is working with the Phuket administration, with local police and with the Tourism and Sport Ministry. The campaign follows complaints from the Ambassadors of the European Union and China.

Two Crime Crisis Centres have been opened on Phuket for tourists, residents and expats to file complaints. One branch is at the Phuket International Airport, the other at Phuket City Police Station.

European Union Ambassadors' List of Seven Phuket Needs


.. An efficient and fairly priced public transport system in Phuket which is available to foreign tourists and residents alike.

.. An end to intimidatory and violent behavior by an element of tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.

.. Strict enforcement of marine safety standards, including flags on beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim.

.. Strict enforcement of standards of behavior for public officials, including police and Immigration, to ensure that foreign visitors and residents feel protected, treated in a fair way and never at risk of extortion.

.. An end to scams involving hiring of equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes.

.. Strict enforcement of road safety regulations.

.. Promotion of environmental issues, including monitoring of water quality.

Phuketwan's List of Phuket Needs


Corruption Start a well-promoted public campaign to end corruption on the island and prosecute any official caught taking bribes. Investigate all allegations about Immigration officers and police. Create a corruption-free Phuket model for other provinces.

Sustainability Begin an investigation into what's required to keep Phuket a natural and appealing destination and set limits on development and tourist numbers based on the results of that investigation. Save the reefs and the beaches. Create a Phuket Beach Authority.

Transport Require all tuk-tuk and taxi drivers to register again and to meet international standards of service before being given new licences. Reduce their numbers by 10 percent a year for three years, offering alternative training. Introduce a call centre and abolish double-payment for journeys passengers don't make.

Crime Provide an extra 500 police for Phuket based on its actual population. Take up the Australian ambassador's suggestion of obliterating all illegal weapons and make the island a no-guns, no-knives zone.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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PLease let this be the first of many!

Posted by paul on September 10, 2013 14:47

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A great first step, keep the momentum going. What gives these 2 the power to control such a large group, extort money from them and exclude, harass and abuse others that are trying to make a legal living?

Posted by Jon on September 10, 2013 15:45

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What is unbelievable and unacceptable is that Central Festival did not organise a queue-taxi with metered-taxis only and accept incoming taxis and tuk-tuks to drop in their customers without possibility to take Central's customers.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on September 10, 2013 16:42

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Little fish but sweat them to get the big fish.
Corruption will not end until the big earners are arrested and charged.
Having said that nice start, keep it up.

Posted by Arthur on September 10, 2013 17:07

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@Arthur - Little fish but sweat them to get the big fish. Corruption will not end until the big earners are arrested and charged.

Since 2 months, Police and DSI have arrested 2 thugs only; but do not forget they are 3999 other idiotes to arrest and at that speed it will take a century to do it....

Posted by Whistle-Blower on September 10, 2013 17:28

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First good news I have heard since the DSI got here.

Posted by NomadJoe on September 10, 2013 19:45

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One of them was already released on bail today.

Posted by jean-paul patrick on September 10, 2013 20:17

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Great story - some action at last. Far too easy to make large amounts of money for minimal effort sending the wrong message to decent law abiding people. Hopefully this will continue and promote honesty, hard work and decency. Great news.

Posted by gee on September 11, 2013 06:16

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I wish the article would have mentioned that it's the taxi rank on the southern side of Central (near Eduplanet and McDonald's) that was involved. I've seen them harass numerous citizens, minivan drivers, etc. while waiting at the porthong ("pink") bus stop there. They have blatantly lied to tourists who have asked them about the bus system and intimidated me several times when I attempted to help these tourists.

But those drivers who work at the rank on the eastern side of Central -- outside of the main entrance with PowerBuy on the movie theater side -- are among the nicest I've found in Thailand. I have used them for rides after finishing late-night work for more than two years now. They have always provided reasonable, never-fluctuating rates (usually 80-100 baht LESS than those quoted by those at the south-side rank) and have unfailingly been kind and courteous. I've also noticed that most of them tend to drive much more carefully than other motorbike taxis I've taken. I assume they belong to the same collective, but they don't associate with most of the others at Central. At least as far as I can see...

Not all of the drivers on this island are awful. But the good ones are an exceedingly rare breed!

Posted by Mark Jochim on September 11, 2013 15:22


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