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Tuk-tuk drivers double as tour guides for big commissions

Commissions 'Destroying Phuket Tourism'

Saturday, August 2, 2014
PHUKET: The worst aspect of Phuket's taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia'' was the process of drivers making commissions of up to 50 percent on delivering passengers to restaurants, shows and activities such as elephant rides, a meeting heard this week.

Many drivers earned more from commissions than from fares.

''This is what is destroying Phuket's tourism industry,'' said Palad Janpokin, who grew up on Phuket when Soi Bangla was still a canal.

He told a meeting of about 300 people at Prince of Songkhla University that the extortionate commissions paid to Phuket taxi drivers were undermining tourism on Phuket and pushing prices of all activities too high for many.

''The green plate taxi drivers operate with the collusion of local businesses who pay these excessive amounts to the drivers to avoid competition,'' Khun Palad said.

''The National Council for Peace and order has been told what is happening by the governor and other administrators rather than local people who can see the harm that is being done to all of tourism by these excessive commissions.

''Phuket's taxi drivers need to be returned to what taxis should be - people who take passengers from point to point without making excessive profits for all the wrong reasons.''

Another longtime Phuket resident, Sithiporn Chaimongklon, said he had moved to Bangkok and felt saddened every time he returned to the island.

''Phuket, the Pearl of the Andaman, is not true any more,'' he said. ''The pearl is grey already. Everybody takes from Phuket without thinking about the public interest.''

He said Phuket had a good natural environment that should have been properly preserved but it had been attacked and destroyed by ''greedy businesspeople, greedy officials and greedy locals.''

''Every time I return to Phuket, the island has changed a little more, and none of it is for the better,'' he said. ''If I choose to go to a public beach, I shouldn't have to fight my way past commercial enterprises.''

Many in the audience were beach vendors, who are appealing for their jobs back and want government subsidies if they are not allowed to return.

Khun Palad was greeted with catcalls when he addressed the audience, saying: ''You attack the public beach and pretend it's your own. You are concerned only about making money and you have never given anything back in return, except trash and bad water.''

Another seminar is to be held next week as the university and local interest groups compile a document describing the issues of Phuket's beaches that they plan to submit directly to the National Council for peace and order, avoiding local Phuket administrators who failed to send a representative to the meeting.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Thank you Khun Palad for speaking the truth. We need more locals like you to come and save this island.

These problems can only be solved by Thais courageous enough to confront fellow Thais who destroy this island with their greed.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 2, 2014 16:28


Khun Palad is very right...

Posted by Sue on August 2, 2014 16:40


its the same for all tours I used to work for a well known kayaking company in Phuket, and some companies demanded 40% just to sell the trip

Posted by Michael on August 2, 2014 16:46


"Phuket's taxi drivers need to be returned to what taxis should be - people who take passengers from point to point without making excessive profits for all the wrong reasons."

Excellent statement.

Posted by stevenl on August 2, 2014 16:57


Great words from Mr CHairmongklan and Mr Janpokin real Thai patriots and truer words were never spoken they have hit the nail on the head for sure . Those complaining beach vendors and taxi mafia are users with no love of the place or it's future that they have abused for decades and deserve no sympathy from the decent people on this island.

Posted by Scunner on August 2, 2014 19:18


What I do not understand is why tourism and guide associations do not lodge official complaints to National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Damrungtam office about all tuk-tuk and taxi drivers working illegally as touts and guides.
To be an official guide, it is 2 year study in university and those thugs are getting up to 60% commissions from every place they bring tourists and do it without a TAT license.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 2, 2014 19:26


Khun Palad is on the right track to bring back the Quality Visitors. Phuket has the chance to be one of the World's best destinations, let's support him!!!!

Posted by hotgem on August 2, 2014 19:36


The cancer has been left untreated for too long and now drastic action is needed. Phuket has been so abused and mistreated for so long it was inevitable something drastic had to happen or it's natural beauty would be lost forever.

Next they must pull down all that ugly green hoarding blocking seas views and demolish all those illegal places that have been built where the best views used to be.

Phuket can be saved but it's going to take vigilance and the stones to start bulldozing places that are illegal- regardless of who owns them.

Posted by Arun Muruga on August 2, 2014 19:44


The problem is that the Gov, who as always supports 'compromise' is in favour of legitimizing the rip off taxi fares, as was shown last year.

As for the barracking of K Palad by those who have been working illegally and paying bribes for years they should realise they are not a special case and be glad of what they took in the past. If they do have issues they should make a complaint against those they were bribing so they can be brought to task. Considering they have been breaking the law it is rich to suggest they should get compensation or special treatment. Jai yen yen.

Posted by Mister Ree on August 2, 2014 22:20


What I do not understand is why tourism and guide associations do not lodge official complaints to National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and the Damrungtam office about all tuk-tuk and taxi drivers


My understanding that they did, and on basis of these complaints there was a recent action.

Yes, only few did, and many didn't, mostly for a fear of reprisal if there is no real justice in the end.

I guess many more complaints have been filed, and investigators are working on them, it is just behind the screen, and not public at the moment

Posted by Sue on August 2, 2014 23:53


What also is a big turn off is the Two Tier Pricing. Frankly I don't care about who can afford what? Make one realistic price for all humans and everybody will be happy, except the scammers and thieves. But would they rather have one person paying 1000Baht or 200 paying 500Baht each. Economics will call the shots.

Posted by Graham on August 3, 2014 10:34


@Graham economics is already calling the shots but the market takes time to work things out. A problem for everyone else is that there are people that are completely new to the experience arriving everyday. Imagine if they had warning's on all incoming flights in the native language of the people about most of the little scams all the old hands know about. Slowly by slowly people learn and that is where the crisis was coming.

Tuk-tuks are one of the biggest problems in regards to this because they are essential, for both foreigners and Thais alike. Greedy people see, hear about, the profits the drivers or owers are making and then the taxi's don't want to use their meters. Private cars some how become limos. The kickbacks are not that important as busting the monopolies. It's one group that is not afraid of using real physical violence and blockade competitors that are legally operating. Given ("real") free completion the economics would soon work it's way out.

Many people have already decided that Phuket is just too much trouble and some people loathe it with a vengeance. The window for sorting this stuff out is short and if they don't sort out the transport issues then it probably won't matter how clean the beaches are. Then the dream of Phuket being a mecca of high rolling tourists will be well and truly over.

Posted by Ty on August 3, 2014 15:47


@ Ty sadly I agree with you.

Posted by Graham on August 3, 2014 18:47


So as a consequence of the complaints against commission ...should it then be deemed illegal to pay them by the businesses that secure their customers this way ?...or is it expected that drivers bring customers for these shops and shows, that are not always in areas where tourist would pass, free of charge ? The power of the free market is overlooked ...tourists will buy the products as long as they find the quality - price ratio good enough ..and business owners will pay for marketing, advertising and commission as long as it pays off....when we talk about commission we should then not forget the western travel agencies and guides that recommend certain restaurants, bars and tailors....dive companies that recommend to buy the equipment at certain shops, recommend hotels etc etc... personally I prefer a free market, that works unregulated ... A business will always try to fetch the highest possible price for a product, people imagining that prices on products will be reduced because commission is reduced or eliminated completely will be very disappointed , it does not work like that in the capitalistic system.

Posted by Sailor on August 4, 2014 00:45

Editor Comment:

Perhaps a cap should be set so that there is healthy competition without the unhealthy element added by greed. Ten percent or even 15 percent seems reasonable but commissions of 50 or 60 percent can turn taxi drivers into compulsive commission-seekers and, as has been reported, lead to the ''kidnapping'' of newly arrived passengers straight from the airport. Kidnapping is not part of a free market.


"should it then be deemed illegal to pay them by the businesses that secure their customers this way ?"

It is illegal, unless they have a TAT license as travel agent, so they also meet the requirements, including the insurance.

They must take the customers there were asked to do so. Now if the customer does not know, they can go see a travel agent, which the taxi driver can be as well if he meets the requirements.

Posted by stevenl on August 4, 2014 10:05

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