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Trapped travellers march to freedom in Phuket's giant traffic jam last night

Phuket's Seven Hour Traffic Jam Ends With Police 'Bashers' Reassigned

Thursday, April 24, 2014
PHUKET: About 1000 people who blockaded Phuket's main road for seven hours yesterday evening brought the reputation of the holiday island into disrepute and inconvenienced hundreds of international tourists.

The blockaders were mostly neighbors of an expecting 25-year-old woman who was raped by 17-year-old twins north of Phuket International Airport on Saturday night.

The large local Phuket crowd wanted an apology from the twins but anger grew when it was learned that three youths pulled in for questioning before the arrest of the twins had been bashed by police.

It was difficult to tell who was more upset - the protesters or the tourists caught up in a massive traffic jam that extended from the bridge conecting Phuket to the mainland to Thalang, about 15 kilometres south.

''After four hours of waiting I gave up and left my car in the middle of the road,'' one irate visitor wrote to Phuketwan ''Why are police at the Phuket [entry] checkpoint not informing people not to enter?''

Travellers from Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi heading to the airport found themselves trapped. Flights to Europe, Russia and Australia were all delayed with up to 100 passengers missing from one flight and a Russian pilot among those caught up in the long street dispute.

Phuket's Governor Maitree Intrusud arrived about 10pm and told protest leaders that four officers would be transferred immediately out of Tachatchai Police Station while a committee investigated claims of the beatings.

Later the superintendent at the station volunteered that he too would be moving out.

With the lifting of the blockade about 11.30pm, Airports of Thailand officials who manage Phuket International Airport reported that many flights had been delayed, but there were no cancellations.

Today will come the discussion about whether the protest could have been foreseen and whether more should be done to prevent people taking justice into their own hands.

Earlier this year, tuk-tuk drivers in the west coast tourist hub of Patong blocked traffic in the one-way system until they, like the residents of Mai Khao last night, got what they wanted.

Although it's illegal to identify minors accused of crimes, photos of the twins have been published widely on Facebook.

Lawlessness and lack of controls on Phuket is one of its major problems.

Residents appear to take the hint from tuk-tuk and taxi drivers who charge excessive fares and blacken the island's name knowing that authorities are unable or unwilling to modernise transport on Phuket.

Too often compromise is employed to settle disputes when what Phuket desperately needs is strict enforcement of Thailand's laws.

The traffic on Thepkasattri Road may be back to normal today but Phuket has a long way to go.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Tuk Tuk drivers would rather park all day than negotiate a reasonable fare with a tourist. We have often been able to get transport in patong in a modern comfortable car for the same price or less than the tuk tuk bandits.

Posted by Terry Hill on April 24, 2014 07:13

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Again an illegal blockade and the BiB's are just watching??? Possible only in Amazing Thailand. But isn't it also about voters for next week end's election ?

Posted by Resident on April 24, 2014 07:28

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Mob rule, and which mob has the most power at any one time uses it for their own gain .

Such is the way they wish to run the country. Such is the way the people will behave.

Posted by LivinLOS on April 24, 2014 08:25

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@resident - there is nothing amazing about this. Its the regular way the BIB operate. In truth there is no police force here on Phuket Island. In many countries this would not have been allowed to happen and the police would have intervened and removed the people blockading the road. Here they just do what the mob ask.

Posted by Ciaran on April 24, 2014 09:06

Editor Comment:

I don't think police are outnumbered anywhere else the way they are on Phuket, Ciaran. That's why concessions have to be made. It's purely a matter of who has the numbers. Perhaps you have never heard of the Tantalum plant riot of 1986? Now that was a protest:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1301&dat=19860624&id=iDZWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OOgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1664,5916176

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@Ed - i definitely agree that they are out numbered and the link was very interesting and i never heard of it - thank you for sharing.

However this behaviour by mobs recently and the lack of any reaction by police i think is fueling this behaviour as people know the police will do nothing and eventually cave into their demands.

Their may come a point when the police will need to make a stand and show that this behaviour will not be tolerated anymore and that may involve calling in a specialized unit of the army to deal with it. I dont know - but there is no simple solution to this.

Posted by Ciaran on April 24, 2014 11:43

Editor Comment:

Education and commonsense persuasion are the answers. Perhaps the governor needs a nightly television show.

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My brother-in-law and his wife were both career prison officers who worked at the Nakhon Si prison. They told me what happens to rapists when they arrive in jail.

Posted by Arun Muruga on April 24, 2014 12:01

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dunno but if I was looking for a nice safe warm climate family vacation,think I would pick Mogadishu over Thailand..yeah, yeah cynic.

Posted by david on April 24, 2014 12:02

Editor Comment:

Nobody came to any harm but there was needless inconvenience for thousands. I think the people of Mogadishu would see it differently. Exaggeration doesn't help.

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The article states that the people wanted an apology for the terrible crime of TWO boys raping a girl who was pregnant, in addition her leg was broken. Imagine how this lady felt, kicked off her motorbike at night and then raped by two men. Terrible. This seems perfectly reasonable to me that people are angry no apology was made from the boys who admitted doing this. When it was not given they blockaded. In many countries blockades happen, the UK blockage of petrol refineries etc. I wish people would stop moaning about Thailand and trying to change Thailand into a country like their own country is. This is not logical as you came here because you prefer the way it is here than in your country. Personally having lived in two of the richest countries of the world I like it here. You must remember Thailand does not have the financial resources to Police in the same manner as G7 countries but I feel a lot safer here. If you don't like it here leave.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on April 24, 2014 14:25

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@Fiesty Farang: I agree that people who keep on complaining about everything in Thailand better get home or elsewhere - and there are many.

I also understand that the relatives and friends of the poor lady are sad, angry and upset.

Where I don't agree, is to support such mob. I was actually impressed by the speed in which the 2 rapists where caught, and admitted. In any country - including Thailand - there is a process of court ruling and condemning the culprits to their due sentence. That process did not yet start since it just happened.
If no sanction would be pronounced at the end, then why not protest, but not now.

Then, the main point: why to take tourists hostage for once bad farang behaviour is not involved? What should be shown and explained to these mob-people is that the impact on the image is so bad, that eventually (combined with other similar "mobs") it will hurt Thailand as a destination (and therefore their revenue). I for sure would be pissed to miss my flights, the cost for airlines must be huge - counting delays and lost connecting flights. Street justice cannot be good. To remind you that there is no "cause" the protesters defend. I am not sure what "re-enacting the crime" will help to the poor lady. It happened, it has been admitted to. Even an apology - I would shove it up their butt if I was the victime.
I have Thai friends who were also upset about being blocked. Taking innocent hostages is no solution, whether in home country or in Thailand.

Posted by Another Farang on April 24, 2014 19:30

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- Fiesty Farang

If everyone always "left" instead of trying to fix problems, we'd all still be living in caves.

Then again, your response reeks of a distinct cave-man mentality so perhaps you'd feel right at home there.

BTW, where do you recommend those Thais who are unhappy with matters here "leave" for ?

As to your assumption that every expat in Thailand prefers this country to their own, I can only say you really need to broaden your perspective, Mr Simpleton.

I reside and work in this country legally. I'm not the guest of anyone. I have the right to voice my opinion about all matters in and about Thailand since they directly affect my daily life, just as they do those who are citizens.

The only right I do not have is the right to vote, unless I obtain Thai citizenship. Something I have no desire to do.

You apparently prefer the relative freedom Thailand allows it's residents to bend and break the rules and to buy your way out of legal problems but personally I find the lack of justice and unbiased law enforcement to be the greatest tragedy in modern day Thailand.

Posted by ThaiMike on April 24, 2014 19:52

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i think the cops should have been promoted, they arrested the two rapists in good time, so what if they roughed up a few of the rapists mates to find them ?

Posted by chris on April 25, 2014 09:06

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Fair comment ed re my facetious, cynical comment re Mogadishu. My point was that there are so many attractive warm inexpensive vacation destinations in the world that it is inevitable that Phuket and Thailand will lose tourists wholesale unless they can provide a destination that is perceived as reasonably safe, law abiding and rip off free environment.

Posted by david on April 25, 2014 14:37

Editor Comment:

Indeed.


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