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A Phuket International Airport makeover goes into holding formation

Phuket Taxis, Tuk-Tuks Off the Hook

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

PHUKET: Reform of the taxi and limousine chaos at Phuket International Airport is being delayed for three months, Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud said today.

''Airports of Thailand have said the contract renegotiation is to be put off,'' the governor said, a move that is likely to spark indignation and concern.

Earlier this month on a visit to Phuket, AoT chairman Siaw Thiwari said that the end of existing taxi contracts on August 31 represented a chance for change.

He promised a Bangkok-style queuing system and implied that meter taxis could also be coming in greater numbers on Phuket.

AoT was even prepared to forego the 36 million baht a year on income from taxi rents if it meant Phuket could change for the better, he said.

A three-month delay means extra millions in income for AoT, observers will be noting today.

The financial bond between the taxi drivers who charge extortionate fares and the AoT, which charges exorbitant rent, has always posed a barrier to long-overdue reforms.

Even with the Thai Government now recognising the need for sweeping changes on Phuket to end rip-offs and preserve the tourism industry, greed appears to be getting in the way of logic.

It was anticipated that fixing the airport's taxi problems would lead on to further changes across Phuket, including not just taxis but tuk-tuks as well. Monopolies continue to dictate fares and policies.

Those who want change will have to wait. Rub out the big tick at September 1 on the calendar, and substitute December 1.

But note that December 1, as the gateway to Phuket's peak season, is a date which is likely to bring forth a familiar excuse: ''We can't carry out a major change like this with so many tourists arriving for Phuket's high season.''

Governor Maitree pointed out today that regrettably, he has no authority to interfere. A decision on when to sort out Phuket's airport taxis and what to do next is down to AoT, he said.

So-called ''quality'' tourists will continue to scrub Phuket off their list of favored destinations as Singapore, Malaysia and other business or holiday rivals continue to improve services and infrastructure.

Phuket's taxi and tuk-tuk based transport monopoly makes travelling on Phuket far more expensive and - for those forced onto motorcycles by ridiculous fares - far more dangerous that other destinations in Southeast Asia.

Resort operators have told us they are now getting cancellations because Phuket is so far behind other destinations on this and other important infrastructure issues.

Perhaps the board of AoT should be forced to catch tuk-tuks next time they visit Phuket. Governor Maitree could also extend his lecture series to taxi drivers on why Phuket needs them to change to take in the AoT board as well.

Little has been heard or seen of the Department of Special Investigation team that arrived on Phuket on August 9 with the specific aim of cleaning up public transport corruption.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Too late she cried in vain, weep Phuket for you're now in pain, for a measly Baht you stood to gain, but you've thrown it all down the ....ing drain.

Posted by Robin on August 29, 2013 11:42

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Hardly unexpected turn of events.

I've made a deal with my friends that we give each others a ride to and from the airport whenever needed to make sure none of us has to give even Bt 1 to the bloodsucking Taxis and AOT.

This does of course nothing to help the tourists but at least we expats can team up together.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 29, 2013 11:46

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Oh Phuket, you've really blown it this time. What a sham.

Posted by FrankieV on August 29, 2013 11:48

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I was at the airport Monday. Nothing has changed. Taxi touts were inside the airport as usual. I was approached by a group of Aussies who were a bit lost and confused, I ended up having to negotiate a taxi fare for them. So much for the crack down.

Posted by Tommy on August 29, 2013 11:51

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Well I am indignant and concerned, but not surprised. 1st set to the doomsayers, then.
What has DSI actually achieved, apart from harrassing a few dodgy expats?

Posted by eddy on August 29, 2013 12:03

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As a person who is generally positive - my positivity has been wavering in recent weeks. When you read stories like this you just wonder how anything will change on this island. And as the article points out the DSI have been shockingly quiet since they got here.

I truly believe this is Phukets last and final chance to change before nations such as China pull the plug on their citizens visiting here. But greed is all that seems to be in mind for top officials here - there is zero long term planning.

Posted by Ciaran on August 29, 2013 12:10

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The banks are scamming people too. The cash rate is always at least 1 baht lower at the airport now. It was never like this until a few years ago. They always gave the advertised rate but now they too see the airport as a place to scam some extra baht from a captive market. I turn left after leaving the airport and don't look back.

Posted by Tommy on August 29, 2013 12:10

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The poor Governor "can't" do anything, well blow me down, he represents the Government, the same Government that grants AoT the contract to manage Thai airports. Surely he could "try" a little bit hard to apply pressure. Oh well, we can still hope the DSI will do something, to help Phuket, though I will no hold my breath.

Posted by DSI Watch on August 29, 2013 12:10

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This makes me laugh, because this is a slap in the face of our beloved editor, who sees everything through pink glasses. Another point for the realists. Aka the doomsayers. Those that told you, Ed, that there is nothing that will stop and turn around these thugs. It was a great experience again for me and a colleague in the airport this morning around 9 am. Taxi drivers everywhere, inside the airport, harassing people as soon as they walked through the door, shouting, unproffessional approach, behavior that is worse than wildebeests, but no DSI to be see or heard. Ok, there was already a lot in the newspapers about the DSI. Maybe they think their work is done.

Posted by Charles on August 29, 2013 12:28

Editor Comment:

There is no point in going through life, Charles, believing that nothing is going to change. You might as well be a tuk-tuk driver.

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Dear Ed when will you learn?

Posted by Gee on August 29, 2013 12:40

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Native English instructors have been asked to teach Phuket Taxi drivers English. The compensation on offer is derisory. Oddly nobody's unavailable due to prior engagements.

Posted by gee on August 29, 2013 12:52

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I've been living and working on Phuket for 17 years. I am planning on moving to Chiangmai in a couple of years from now. Had enough of the greed etc that is now rampant on Phuket Island. I have a positive attitude to life but I feel that Phuket will not be a great place to live out my retirement years.

Posted by kiwitezza on August 29, 2013 12:52

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Ed - Your continuance of comparing of the realist element of your readership to tuk tuk drivers etc, with each passing failure and fiasco, is beginning to wear a bit thin. In fact it's starting to make you look silly, as you have no other counter - point If you can't beat them then join them, or at the very least acknowledge the value of their opinion.

Posted by eddy on August 29, 2013 12:54

Editor Comment:

Sorry eddy, you appear to be unable to express yourself coherently. Perhaps you can try (when you have a good typing day) to explain to us all the difference between these two points of view:

The tuk-driver: ''Nothing is going to change because I say so.'')
The doomsayer: ''Nothing is going to change because the tuk-tuk driver says so.''

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Our company already lost a few very important guests, because getting request from them about some very expensive accommodations, they asked us if situation with taxi gangs near these places has changed or not. Our answer was honest and these clients refused to make a booking on Phuket. I would laugh in the face of any Thai official, who talk about promotion of high-quality tourism on this dirty island! We could earn about 100000 bath alone from these clients, if they come here. (It is just our 3% commission from selling services to them).

Posted by Stranger on August 29, 2013 13:16

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Repeating the same old thing, yet expecting a different outcome is what????????

Posted by paul on August 29, 2013 13:20

Editor Comment:

Is the answer 'A question mark?'

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Tommy, I'm not sure if it is the banks fault or not, what I do know is that the DSI, only a few days ago, acknowledged that there are illegal money exchanges at the airport, for some unknown reason, even though they are based there, they are unable to "find" them. I'll give them a hint, check the hotel and taxi kiosks. Something DSI seem hard to do.

Posted by DSI Watch on August 29, 2013 13:25

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Of course this was predictable that nothing would change that fast. The phuketwan was very optimistic in his reports the last weeks. Maybe the dsi is just on holiday in Phuket. Things are going on as usual, problems with the taxis at the airport and building at the beaches.

Posted by Eric on August 29, 2013 13:51

Editor Comment:

We still say this is Phuket's best chance. It's a campaign, not a crackdown. far too early for judgements, unless you're a tuk-tuk driver or a doomsayer.

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Latest addition to the Oxford dictionary...
OMNISHAMBLES

Posted by Yojimbo on August 29, 2013 13:52

Editor Comment:

You're twerking us.

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A shame, a real shame - As others have said, what have the DSI done? I don't see this as a victory for the doomsdayers', but I do see it as a sad day for Phukets' future, one that will impact adversely in some way on all residents both local and foreign.

Posted by Terry on August 29, 2013 13:53

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Ed
The doomsayers are not saying: ''Nothing is going to change because the tuk-tuk driver says so.''

The doomsayers are in fact saying: "Not much is going to change mainly because of a lack of solid commitment on the part of the authorities to seek and carry through meaningful change whatever the requirements and social cost, and (b) inherent institutionalised thuggery and corruption.

To compare the realists point of view to that of the drivers is laughable and disingenuous.

Posted by eddy on August 29, 2013 13:58

Editor Comment:

Ah, so when a doomsayer writes ''Nothing is going to change'' he or she doesn't really mean it?

Whew, what a relief.

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doomsayers 1 - 0 ed and thai govt
Let Phuket be euthanased quickly

Posted by Damien on August 29, 2013 14:11

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I seem to have missed an article or two. Ed, can you enlighten me as to where I can fine a "doomsayer" said "Nothing is going to change because the tuk-tuk driver says so." Sometimes it does seem that you "bend" the truth, hope you can prove me wrong.

Posted by DSI Watch on August 29, 2013 14:31

Editor Comment:

You'll find plenty of comments along those lines, DSI Watch, among the 50,000. Enjoy your weekend.

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Your informative web site is a dossier of institutional greed and cowardice. We the realists know that those with the power to implement change are the culprits. Please keep up the excellent work.

Posted by gee on August 29, 2013 14:36

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Damn it greed beats improving Phuket and sustainable, honest tourism improvements.
This cannot go on. Phuket and Thailand deserve better.

Posted by Arthur on August 29, 2013 15:02

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the AOT turning there backs on 36 million baht a year seemed too fantastic to me for the betterment of the island I was right just too fantastic.

Posted by slickmelb on August 29, 2013 15:21

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I'm very surprised, that doomsayers who have lived many years in Phuket, don't realize that profound change in thinking and folloving acting, is almost impossible in a couple of months. Needed actual changes in question, are in the beginning of a long way, maybe years, developing together with Phuket and Thailand. Ed. I share your opinion.

Posted by Peter on August 29, 2013 15:53

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DSI need to back up all the things it proclaimed to do among others to charge "at least" one from their short list for corruption ... but they still have a few days to show that it was not all hot air so give them a chance.

Posted by Sailor on August 29, 2013 16:04

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"Unless"
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not.

Posted by lorax on August 29, 2013 19:43

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So, Maitree, the DSI, and AoT have put off confronting the tuk tuk cartels again! Quelle surprise!
Spineless and useless. Unfortunately typifies politicians in Thailand.
The island will continue to wither away until somebody grows a pair and takes on the mobs.
Meanwhile tourism here will suffer badly. And Thailands economics are in a worsening mess. I would have thought they'd have woken up to saving the tourism part of the economy at least.
But no. Stupid, lazy, complacent nation.

Posted by jimbo on August 29, 2013 19:58

Editor Comment:

jimbo, perhaps, as with your overview, there is one small collective oversight: a strategy. A plan. A logical progression from, as you term it, ''confrontation,'' to a better island. A peaceful, tolerant tourist island, we hasten to add, with a few issues that don't require violence or confrontation.
If you don't have an adequate response, jimbo, a strategy to avoid violence and confrontation, then perhaps you're better off planning an airstrike on Syria, or something really worthwhile.

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You do write some rubbish, Ed.
A "confrontation" needn't be violent. To compare my comments about confrontation to an airstrike on Syria is just plain dumb.
The Governor, AoT, and DSI should be taking action to disband the cartel system. Starting with getting the ridiculous fees AoT charges reduced, then getting some order into the airport melee, and imposing, BY LAW, the installation of meters into the tuk tuks and taxis.
Geddit now, Ed?

Posted by jimbo on August 29, 2013 21:37

Editor Comment:

Can you be a bit more specific, please? ''Taking action to disband the cartel system'' is a platitude. You seem to have platitudes . . . but that's not a strategy. What is your strategy? Capital letters may not be an answer.

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I'm not a doomsayer, and I believe in the power of money and greed.
The only solution to solve these problems is a massive drop of incomes, resulting in a drop in the amount of VAT and taxes collected by the government (not to mention other revenues).
Thanks to internet forums and word of mouth, tourism from Europe has already started to slow down.
History teaches us that the curve of drop could be exponential.
If this happens, things will change, "believe me!"

Posted by william on August 29, 2013 23:45

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Firstly, it is deeply disappointing to have seen this gradual change of language and now clear deviation from making any change on Phuket. Officials must realize this is very REAL.

I would spend 250,000 Bht per year on Phuket, we just decided not to bring the family this Spring.

Even more disappointing why all the bickering of who was right and who was a doomsayer. Change will occur if there is a great enough will. If the 50% of people who said this would never happen said lets help make it happen the outcome just may be different.

Don't let the chance go completely.

Posted by Darren on August 30, 2013 08:24

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Phuket's tourism industry will be long finished before anything. The greed has taken over from every aspect, they do not know when to stop building with all land owners constructing more shop houses next to the rows that are already empty, some for years. More resorts than the tourists will be able to fill. It happened in Spain and it will happen in Phuket. Give it 5 years and Ed's pride and joy where only his opinion is right will be no more.
You can tell me i'm wrong and a doomsdayer in 5 years Ed.

Posted by phuket madness on August 30, 2013 10:12

Editor Comment:

I'll be in Spain. Things are improving there.

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The doomsayers will love this one. Not surprising just window dressing politics.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 30, 2013 14:29

Editor Comment:

More likely someone has realised that it can't be done overnight. A plan is required.

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Give ED a break. it did look good and not even Ed thought that anyone. not even a buffalo could be this weak and stupid.... I am sure they working on a plan tho solve it.. later though but yet the DSI wasn't prepared to find the problem this big... thats why they come this late to look at it... now they know that its a HUGE (sorry about capital letters) problem not a little bug on the shoulder.. more like an Elephant sitting on ur head... so keep up they GREAT work DSI... u will solve it.. thumbs up...

Posted by frog on September 2, 2013 13:50


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