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Police chiefs at today's meeting being told to tackle the ''mafia''

Phuket's Mafia and Expat Cohorts Face Day of Reckoning

Saturday, June 23, 2012
News Analysis

PHUKET: The Phuket jet-ski operators who cheat Phuket tourists by claiming huge amounts for damage will be first to feel the new ''Phuket Model'' of policing, Thailand's Deputy Police Chief, Lieutenant General Pansiri Prapawat, said today.

He told Phuket's officers - and officers from neighboring provinces around Phuket - that they should no longer fear the ''local mafia politicians'' who have based their power on the support of illegal taxi drivers.

''Their days of influence are over,'' Lieutenant General Pansiri said. ''You have nothing to fear. There is no need to give them your support any longer.''

What appeared to be emerging today was the makings of a showdown between the national government and Phuket's local powerbrokers for control of Phuket's future.

As has become increasingly obvious in the past few years, tourists from Europe and Australia are being dissuaded from returning to Phuket in growing numbers because of the rip-off mentality, the sense that extortion is the aim.

This is at its most blatant in two areas identified today by Lieutenant General Pansiri - the jet-ski operators at Patong beach and the illegal taxi drivers, who already number in many thousands because of their inflated fares monopoly.

It's been some time coming, but as Phuketwan has noted, despite cynicism, it has been coming.

The regular honorary consuls' meetings, the open calls from ambassadors for reform, the bad international publicity surrounding the worst of the violence have all been leading to intervention by the national government.

Now, with the horrific murder of Australian travel agent Michelle Smith - whose only aim was to promote tourism on Phuket - the prospect of real change has arrived.

We hope the breaking of the power of the local chiefs extends to the beaches and the hillsides, where some rich expats are also engaged in breaking Thailand's laws for their own selfish gain - at the same time pretending to be ''environmentalists.''

We welcome the day when the only Phuket jet-skis are offshore on pontoons, when beach vendors, restaurants and party clubs are banned from Phuket's beaches, and when rich expats appear in court alongside the Phuket ''mafia'' for their part in breaches of Thai law.

Once it was just a dream. Now we hope to see it fast become reality.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Their days of influence are over,'' Lieutenant General Pansiri said. ''You have nothing to fear. There is no need to give them your support any longer.''

Wonderful news! I hope the General has time to speak to the dozens of illegal taxi drivers who hassle arriving tourists each and every day and night at the airport. (I know because I am present at the airport every day and night).

Despite the proclaimed crack-down a few months ago on black taxis at the airport, with every unmarked car being checked, it was - alas - all just empty words. There were no checks, just a few new signs warning illegal taxis not to trade at the airport - and those same illegal taxi drivers usually lean against these signs as they continue their hassling of tourists.

I welcome a crackdown, but it is oh so easy to spout empty words - it has happened so many times before that I'm not going to hold my breath in this case


Posted by Simon Luttrell on June 23, 2012 15:39


It will stay a dream

Posted by FS on June 23, 2012 16:39


Have noticed some clear hostility in dealing with Tourists. Not always a welcoming attitude. Same problems we face in South Africa and education in tourism and culture is critical

Posted by Kevin Harris on June 23, 2012 16:58


"Action speaks louder than words". Going to start with the jet skis? - easy impound every one & scrap them - no jet skis - no mafia - no rip off. When I see that happen, I might believe that the rest will be tackled in time.

Posted by Logic on June 23, 2012 21:16


Why limit your crack-down to illegal taxis? How about curbing the obnoxious, aggressive and violent behavior of the so called 'legal' ones. How about clearly visible ID numbers on the vehicles along with the phone number of the independent (possible?) organization to deal with complaints (I know, that organization would need to be started).

How about random checks of the drivers and vehicles for drugs, alcohol, and weapons.

We know meters are never going to work, another idea that would probably never work (but still be great) would be mandatory DVR video cameras in all taxis. The kind that records continuously and has enough memory to hold several weeks worth of video. They've been in emergency vehicles for decades and are already required in taxis in man countries. The technology is so cheap these days and it would ensure the safety not only of the passengers, but also of all the other innocent people just trying to use the public highways.

Unfortunately, as so many others here no doubt agree, I can't see any of this coming to pass. Word like this coming down from Bangkok is a good start, but it will take a lot more than words to change the engrained mindset of the general populace, not just of Phuket, but of Thailand in general.

Posted by CaptainJack on June 24, 2012 02:02

Editor Comment:

A weapons crackdown is well overdue. Technology is an aid to crime prevention but better to educate and enforce, surely. There are millions of honest Thais, Jack. The only ''engrained mindset'' is yours.


No Mr Editor, Jack's right. The mindset of the thais working on this island is all wrong, with the sole aim of extracting as much money as possible in as short a time as possible, with no thought about the future of tourism.

Posted by jimbo34 on June 24, 2012 07:39

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you only deal with extortionists, jimbo34. You should try some more normal activities. Phuket has more than its share of honest, upright citizens. If you are failing to find them, you have a lifestyle problem.


Ed most of the tourist operator are extortionists and those are the ones who visitors have to deal with. You've been living here long enough to know where to go to get a fair treatment as well as i do but what about tourist who come here for the first time? They should be able to deal with honest and fair operators, but this is very rare in Phuket specially if you need public transport (and this is a normal activity).

Posted by Marc on June 24, 2012 10:15


I'd be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I've read promises like this over the years. My ex once said to me, "This is Thailand, you can do what you want". She was right.

Posted by agogohome on June 24, 2012 10:51


Marc. why didn't Editor think about that? lol....

Posted by frog on June 24, 2012 11:59


That those in power have failed to take any real action to correct the problems that curse Phuket is beyond doubt and external intervention is needed.

What I fear is that this will be politicized and will be turned into a Red versus Yellow event.

To try to take away the power that certain individuals and establishments have enjoyed for a very long time will not be easy and certainly won't be achieved without stiff opposition. Hopefully not violent.

Posted by soupdragon on June 24, 2012 12:03

Editor Comment:

No reason why it should become Red v Yellow when its Commonsense v Greed.


A crackdown? What a joke. Give it a few weeks and it's all same same. Scams, overpricing, assaults, murders, etc... foolish tourists will continue flocking in. Sad.

Posted by JLo on June 24, 2012 12:10


@Editor. Do they have an import license for this commonsense you speak of ????

Posted by soupdragon on June 24, 2012 13:09


Not sure which day this meeting was but what I am sure of is friends of mine who on Saturday (yesterday) were scammed for 600USD by Jet Ski thugs who took them to their hotel and made them pay for damage they did not do. These people then immediately checked out of their hotel and left Phuket ? (never to return) This will NEVER end . . .

Posted by Terry on June 24, 2012 15:33

Editor Comment:

It won't end if your friends and you don't speak up by telling the police or the media. Running does no good.


Reading all these comments tells me what I believe is really wrong with Phuket.

Residents who do not give a damn and can only whine rather than taking steps to be part of the answer

Posted by Arthur on June 25, 2012 13:46


Phuket has a crime problem? You have got to be kidding me.
In the period 19 th to 26 th June this year, yes last week, Darwin CBD, that's a six to ten block area of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia reported 18 cases of assaults, 44 cases of disturbances general or licenced premises and a total of reports to police of all cases, 317 and you think Phuket has a problem.
The problem is world wide and Phuket is a safe haven compared to most holiday destinations in the world.

Posted by Arthur on June 26, 2012 07:52

Editor Comment:

Murders we could do without, Arthur.


Yes Ed Murders can be done without. My point however is that panic never helps.
In the period I quoted we also had a man set on fire after someone poured petrol on him. This however was not in the district I was reporting on.
The days of whining must stop and people actually need to do something, even if it is just volunteering with the Tourist Police or something similar.
The days of blissful innocence are over, unless we stand up then nothing will get done.

Posted by Arthur on June 27, 2012 06:00


Sounds a bit, like you earn your money in or b/c of the Phuket tourism industry.

Posted by ??? on June 27, 2012 08:55

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