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.