Tourism News

Tourism News Phuketwan Tourism News
facebook recommendations


Sign up now for our News Alert emails and the latest breaking news plus new features.

Click to subscribe

Existing subscribers can unsubscribe here


Gary Ronald Ponting during the standoff with Patong taxi drivers

Patong Taxi Rumble: Aussie Tells His Side

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
PHUKET: An Australian man accused of trying to become a Phuket taxi driver burst into tears today as he told police he feared he was going to die at the hands of the Patong taxi ''mafia.''

''My wife is three months pregnant and I have an eight-year-old daughter,'' cried Gary Ronald Ponting, who claimed to have been a member of the police force in Australia for 20 years before retiring.

He was speaking to an officer at Kathu Police Station this afternoon, giving for the first time his side of a controversial encounter in which he waved a gun.

Mr Ponting's version of what took place outside Patong's Phuket Graceland Resort and Spa yesterday is very different to the account of local taxi drivers.

After being arrested following yesterday's confrontation, the 44-year-old Aussie had his first opportunity today to tell in his own words what took place.

He told the interviewing policeman today that he drove his ''ute'' - Australian slang for a pickup - to the resort to drop off his Thai wife, who was three months pregnant, and his daughter aged eight from a previous relationship, who is on Phuket during school holidays.

They were not guests at the resort but his wife, who runs a tour business in Patong, needed to meet customers at the Graceland resort, on beach road.

On the way out after dropping them off, by chance he encountered two Australian friends, who were enjoying their holiday with two of their own friends.

The four of them piled into the ''ute'' and he planned to drop them off elsewhere in Patong.

Taxi drivers from the Graceland rank ''came from nowhere,'' he told a police investigator today, with drivers telling him in broken English: ''What are you doing? Why are you taking all these people?''

He said the drivers were ''being very aggressive.''

Mr Ponting said he continued on his way with his friends and their friends, dropping them near his wife's office, then went back to the house in Kathu.

He plays the role of househusband, while his wife works. He told police today that he does the washing and the housework, everything that needs doing around the home, while his wife operates the tour business.

His wife telephoned about 1.30pm, saying that she and his daughter wanted to catch up with him for lunch, Mr Ponting said.

Along the way to meet them, he told police, he decided to drop by at Graceland to photograph some of the ''aggressive'' taxi drivers he had encountered earlier.

His aim, he said, was to present the photos and his account of what had happened to the so-called ''Tourist Court.'' [There's actually is no such thing but some media have presented the new Tourist Protection Service as a ''Tourist Court.'']

As a former policeman, he wanted to present the ''unacceptable aggressive behavior'' of the Graceland drivers, he told the investigating officer at Kathu Police Station today.

Aunt Meow, the woman who runs the Graceland rank in the absence of the leader, was not there, he was told, by drivers. They added that she would be back at 3pm.

Over lunch, his wife told him: ''Why do you have to do this? They are 'mafia.' They will kill you.''

He said that he told his wife that the attitude of the drivers wasn't right, so he intended to do what he could to fix it.

Back outside Phuket Graceland, Mr Ponting told the investigating officer, he got out of his ''ute'' to take photographs - and was immediately surrounded and attacked.

He said he was knocked to the ground but at no stage retaliated, suffering a bruised face and hip and he was punched and kicked.

When he got to his feet, he said, he found himself confronting a taxi driver holding a knife.

At this stage of the interview, Mr Ponting began crying. ''I am going to become a father again soon,'' he said, ''and I have an eight-year-old daughter. I did not want to die.''

He went to the ''ute'' and grabbed a BB handgun from inside, waving it around to frighten off the drivers.

The drivers stepped back and he drove the ''ute'' a short distance down the beach road to the Kalim Circle, where police caught up with him and arrested him.

He says the ammunition found in the car - which does not fit the gun - was left from an outing he went on with his young daughter to a Phuket shoorting range a couple of days ago.

He denies any knowledge of the knuckle-duster and knife combination that was allegedly also found in the vehicle.

Mr Ponting has been charged with possession of an illegal gun, possession of ammunition, and possession of a weapon in a public place.

Because there are few signs of a serious fight, assault charges are unlikely to be pursued.

Mr Ponting said he was a retired policeman with 20 years' experience and had been coming and going between Phuket and Australia's Gold Coast for three years.

The case is being investigated further. It comes amid growing concern about the power of Phuket's taxi groups to decide who comes and who goes from Phuket's resorts.

Taxi and tuk-tuk fares on Phuket have been pushed to extortionate levels that are now considered unacceptable by many tourists.

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation has begun an anti-corruption campaign to end the monopoly that prevents a normal, low-priced Phuket public transport system from being established.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Knowing this is the exact kind of behavior we have seen time and again from the taxi and tuk tuk ranks, it is believable. Not smart to confront these guys as he did, even if he was in the right.

Posted by NomadJoe on October 2, 2013 22:36


He told police today that he does the washing and the housework, everything that needs doing around the home, while his wife operates the tour business.

watchout dear aussie friend becuse if the court dont punish you the immigration will for no work permit for doing housework!

Posted by Karim on October 2, 2013 22:39


Thank you for presenting the other side of the story. At least to me this makes a lot more sense than going in the middle of the local taxi mafia and declaring to be a taxi driver, not to mention threatening their leader.

What I find extremely disturbing is that a group of people are limiting the free movement of the public and the local police force is doing absolutely nothing about it.

Why I visit a resort and with whom is my business and mine only and I certainly don't have to justify my actions to a gang of taxi thugs.

Posted by ThaiMike on October 2, 2013 22:59


"than going in the middle of the local taxi mafia and declaring to be a taxi driver,"
but this IS exactly the taxis point of view! in their eyes he IS a taxi driver! we all are - we re having cars you know,
you cannot just pick up anyone you want in your own car! that's stealing their business

Posted by toin on October 3, 2013 02:36

Editor Comment:

And it's worth remembering that the Graceland taxi rank group is regarded as one of the least aggressive groups.


I think this guy is not very bright and I agree with the taxi's if they have green and yellow plates. I always when picking up friends or family at a hotel go to the taxi rank and explain who I am pickuping up and for how many days. Never a problem and I get a thank you everytime. If his wife was driving and she has a legal vehical, (yellow or all green taxi plates) then OK. Then the husband can not drive the vehicle. It is against the law. Use common sense and be polite. If you do not want to do that leave Phuket. Very easy, do not go back with a gun. BB or real.

Posted by jiminktata on October 3, 2013 07:06

Editor Comment:

''Use common sense and be polite'' or allow everyone the freedom to come and go as they please from Phuket's resorts, the way it works in the rest of Thailand and the rest of the world?
You are cheerleading for the wrong team, jiminktata. Head out of the sand, please.


Jiminkata, if I have family or friends staying in a resort in Phuket and I have arranged to pick them up for an outing I can most certainly tell you I will not be seeking the permission of taxi drivers if this is acceptable to them, are you serious man?

Posted by coxo on October 3, 2013 07:51


@jiminktata...I don't know who you are, or where you come from, but nowhere else in theworld, that I am aware of< does anyone need to report to a taxi/tuk tuk driver and ask for permission to drop off or pick up ANYONE.

My concern is with the complete lack of action by any law enforcement body, it doesn't take too much intelligence to find these aggressive drivers, a simple plain clothes cop and car going to and from different resorts would quickly get results.

So, I ask any Phuket authority, that reads the Governor or Police Chief, why hasn't this been done... yes, the "WHY" word.

Posted by DSI Watcher on October 3, 2013 09:26


"Why I visit a resort and with whom is my business and mine only and I certainly don't have to justify my actions to a gang of taxi thugs."

A question for the DSI, what authority do the taxi thugs have to question anybody about anything outside of a resort or anywhere else for that matter?

They are taxi drivers. nothing more, unless the Thai government, police or local officials have granted them extra status that we do not know about?

If so, could they please make this clear. If Phuket Taxi Drivers "are the law" then so be it: your country, your rules.

Posted by Roger Gibson on October 3, 2013 10:05


ex police officer
crying at the interview
not my fault
sounds like he fits well into the story and location.
btw: phuketwan called it tourist court, too. Not only 'some media' ;-)

Posted by dingdong on October 3, 2013 10:22

Editor Comment:

You'll find we carefully described it as a Tourist Protection Service, dingdong, except when quoting other publications that got it wrong or in the early days when the officials struggled to explain it. .


Dear Ed, and other commentators. Sorry I did not explain myself well in the first comment.

First off, I do not like the taxi co-ops controlling the hotels and streets but it has been this way for many years. The government seems to be working on sorting it out but it will take time. I do hope soon that there are meter taxis all over the island in the near future. I have supported the meter taxis at the airport until the girl there told me "This is not Bangkok no meter, pay or leave" I would still support them if they put the meters back on again as it is good for Phuket tourism and locals.

What you have to understand the taxis in front of the hotels,this is thier business they are there everyday and see the same illegal farang taxi's/tour companies here in Phuket making money driving customers around. This is a job reserved for Thai people like it or not. The real taxi and tuk tuk's also have the same trouble with illegal taxi's and Tuk tuk's so give the legitment people a break. No all Taxi's are bad.

If you pickup people and it's friends and family there is no problem. If you want to avoid any conflicts I suggest saying hello. I have done it many times and will do it with friends coming in next week.

If you do not want to this, then fine up to you.

This guy was not doing this he took people out of the hotel. He had no trouble when he dropped off his wife, Only when taking people that look like customers out. If he was only getting friends he could have avoid the situation. He he was working illegally then I am not shocked they stopped him.

Posted by jiminkata on October 3, 2013 10:27

Editor Comment:

What you have to understand, jiminkata, is that the present system has to be reformed as soon as possible. He was not working illegally, according to him. Nor are the tour operators or the people who want to drive friends around the island.


Ed you said:

EXCLUSIVE: Brave Enough to Change Phuket
A tourist court on Phuket is likely impose double penalties for crimes committed against tourists, a meeting heard yesterday.

Vice Governor Jamleran Tipayapongtada, who attended a key planning meeting in Bangkok on Friday, told Phuket council leaders that the court was likely to be ''a very special 100 percent promotion.''

Posted by phonus balonus on October 3, 2013 11:12

Editor Comment:

As I said, that was in the early days when everybody was being misinformed. We corrected it as soon as the real story emerged - long before others, Do your research fairly and accurately.


It is obvious Jimikata that you have been here for a short time, not so many years ago taxi touts did not hang outside hotels, this a new occurrence that I hope the authorities clean up quickly. If I want a taxi I will call for one, at the north end of laguna villas there are about 8 cars parked up every day, the thugs in there bamboo huts would be lucky to get one fare every two days, its ugly!

Posted by coxo on October 3, 2013 11:23


The whole system behind the taxi drivers "operating their business outside the hotels" is corrupt from the top down and we are living in hope that the DSI will do their job properly and set about removing those who have abused their powers and will install a modern and fair public transportation system for all across all of Phuket.

Failing that, we have to ensure that this story doesn't go away and that it reaches the international media to a) embarrass the Thai government into taking decisive action, or b) affect their lucrative tourism industry to such an extent that they are forced to take decisive action once and for all

There can be no siding with the taxi drivers, even the good ones who are just trying to earn a living.

Until taxi drivers outside the resorts stop acting like they are above the law and until we only have to pay a fare for the journey we make (i.e. not including the journey the taxi driver makes back to base) then unfortunately, the honest taxi drivers are just innocent victims like the rest of us.

Posted by Roger on October 3, 2013 11:37



" he was working illegally then I am not shocked they stopped him."


... assuming that they had some reasonable suspicions for that, did they stopped him LEGALLY?

If we are talking about legality of actions:

What kind of power they have to stop him? To my knowledge Penal Code of Thailand provide for very limited cases, when you can hold a someone, who is to be a criminal at the scene, caught red-handed, and for very serious offence.

This is a sample of a kind of barbaric Lynch court, they do whatever they want.This is similar if you got one of those kids on motorbikes smuggling bags, off the the bike and to the ground,immobilized, and then you inflict on hi some kind of bodily damage, like you rip his eyes off out of revenge .

That Graceland taxi gang allegedly attacked the Australian with a knife. Would he not take defense with displaying his (illegal) ammunition, who knows in which hospital or morgue regurgitate he would be today: a guard at the gate would tell he saw nothing; CCTVs were off maintenance that day; and taxi gang would say that some stranger attacked the Australian and then fled.

As for Graceland there are numerous tour vans picking up /dropping off customers, and in any case this is not a business of taxi gang members to do investigations and give legal appraisals of the sutuation - what they had to do, is to report to police, provide details and support it by testimony , and photo/video footage as evidence , if any.

Posted by Sue on October 3, 2013 11:47


Ed, as a almost daily reader of pw, I 'got it' from pw! Denial, explaining, doesn't change a thing: "There's actually is no such thing but some media have presented the new Tourist Protection Service as a ''Tourist Court.'" -- fact is, by whatever reason, phuketwan has presented it as tourist court, too. Come on, you can do better. I hope!

Posted by dingdong on October 3, 2013 12:03

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you missed this. No doubt you had some good excuse:

Thailand's Tourist Police to Gain New Powers: Phuket Protection Centre Opens

''News of the plan came with the opening of the Tourist Protection Section at Phuket Provincial Court. The new office will fast-track cases involving Phuket tourists.

''The innovative process has been widely misrepresented as a ''Tourist Court.'' Thailand's laws remain the same for all, Thais and non-Thais.''



"If you pickup people and it's friends and family there is no problem. If you want to avoid any conflicts I suggest saying hello" - why on earth do i have to acknowledge taxi drivers if i was picking my mother or father up at a hotel?? What business is it of theirs?

The problem i see right now is that there seems to be very little if any action by the DSI to start sorting this out. Where have these guys gone? What happened to their weekly update on a Tuesday ?

Posted by Ciaran on October 3, 2013 12:42


I just came back from bkk!
bangkok taxis can choose if they drive you, and often they dont like it and drive off alone


the one taxi we asked wanted 100 baht surcharge from silom to lad prao because of a u-turn of something,

maybe the "phuket taxi model" spreads to thailand!
instead of bkk coming to phuket to clean up

Posted by toin on October 3, 2013 13:35


"No doubt you had some good excuse:"

I always have, but it looks like, the master of excuses is sitting in your office, Ed.
I didn't miss that article, that missed also 'pw did that, too'. Like I didn't miss your 'point', in writing in this article "some media have presented...", as a try, not to be included in 'some media'.

Some people need longer, to really get adapted to the world, they are living in.

Posted by dingdong on October 3, 2013 15:44

Editor Comment:

You could go on about this for a very long time, dingdong, but as I thought I made plain in response to other commenters:

..of course we referred to it as a ''tourist court'' when we were told that's what it was.

..after the Tourist Protection Section was opened, some media continued to call it a ''tourist court.'' We didn't.

I hope that's simple enough for you. Try sticking to the topics of the articles, please.


Sounds about right. I knew something was missing from the original fairy tale. This guy has guts, thank God he was not crippled or killed by that rabble. And his crime which enraged the drivers was taking photos?

Posted by fw on October 4, 2013 04:50


The biggest joke and the think that made me laugh was the final sentence "Thailand's Department of Special Investigation has begun an anti-corruption campaign to end the monopoly that prevents a normal, low-priced Phuket public transport system from being established."

Posted by IAN on October 11, 2013 13:59

Saturday October 1, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


Facebook Twitter