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German honorary consul Dirk Naumann tells of his concern for his life

Phuket's Tuk-Tuk Gangs Respond With Violence and Create Fear

Thursday, September 1, 2011
News Analysis

PHUKET: German honorary consul Dirk Naumann once engaged in a debate at a Phuket honorary consuls' meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Patong, who defended Phuket's tuk-tuk drivers and tried to explain why they deserved high fares.

Mr Naumann had done his research and won the debate. Sadly, if reports alleging censorship are correct, the minutes of that debate would have been doctored before being forwarded to officials in the Thai government and to Bangkok embassies, so that Mr Naumann probably lost the argument.

That would be a great shame for Phuket and its international future.

Every three months, when the Phuket honorary consuls meet with the Phuket Governor and Phuket administrators, different viewpoints are expressed frankly and openly about tourism and what's wrong with Phuket.

This is the prime achievement of the innovative talkfest, the only one of its kind in Thailand, where the issues of the safety of visitors and of problems associated with Phuket's rapid development can be raised openly.

At this week's quarterly meeting, there was an open wound. A German expat resident had been assaulted in Patong a few days earlier.

Apparently in retribution over a 200 baht tuk-tuk fare that the German claimed he did not have to pay, the Phuket expat resident was knocked into a coma by a gang of assailants - probably tuk-tuk drivers.

Mr Naumann, always a thoughtful consul, summed up the situation this way: ''I am asking myself, how we can allow in tourist Thailand the law of the land to be taken into the hands of the mob.''

Indeed, this is the question that is now preoccupying Phuket police and officials, although from slightly different standpoints to that of Mr Naumann and the other honorary consuls.

While there are two sides to these encounters - the German man probably started the fight when the driver demanded 200 baht after, in the German's mind at least, originally agreeing to 100 baht - the question is why the police weren't called to settle this minor dispute.

And the answer, as a series of recent incidents seem to indicate, is that the tuk-tuk drivers of Patong don't obey the law. They prefer to take it into into their own hands.

Two Dutch men encountered a violent reaction earlier this month, leaving one with 18 stitches in a head wound, and in February, two Australians were knifed in what has been labelled a case of attempted murder.

The question is now being asked, who runs Patong?

Phuket police are supposed to notify honorary consuls as soon as possible whenever an expat encounters trouble on Phuket, either as a victim or as a perpetrator.

Tourists are not always saints, as the honorary consuls have been quick to acknowledge. The Aussies, for example, probably damaged a tuk-tuk. So did the Dutchmen.

But it was a total of six days after the bashing of the German man that Patong police finally contacted Dirk Naumann to tell him about the serious injury inflicted on a German citizen.

Six days, when police are supposed to notify honorary consuls as soon as possible. Yesterday it also emerged that the French honorary consul had no knowledge of a rape case in Patong involving a French woman. An official police list says the rape happened two weeks ago.

What's more, when Patong police contacted Mr Naumann to tell him about the dispute involving the German, they asked him to travel to Patong to engage in a mediation session - to talk about compensation.

Mr Naumann wondered aloud at yesterday's honorary consuls meeting how mediation and compensation could be discussed, with the German man still in a coma in a hospital intensive care unit.

And yesterday he took his concern a step further by adding these words: ''How can I go to Patong and meet the tuk-tuk drivers for mediation and for the rest of my life, I have to fear for my life. I am sorry, I cannot go.''

In those sentences, Mr Naumann encapsulated the current concerns about the latest series of Phuket tuk-tuk and jet-ski incidents. Mostly the incidents occur in the popular west coast destination of Patong, but they are growing in number elsewhere on Phuket's west coast.

This is alarming. If a Phuket honorary consul says he is in fear of the consequences of protecting his citizens, then what's been happening on Phuket and to Phuket needs close examination by the new government in Bangkok and swift remedial action.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I probably shouldn't be saying this, but on Phuket's east coast, and in places away from the coast, prices are cheap, people are nice and friendly and nobody tries to rip you off. If you live on the west coast, which was already spoiled 15 years ago, you gotta roll with the punches - sometimes literally. The west side is NOT the best side.

Posted by Henry on September 2, 2011 00:08

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Clearly nothing has changed in Phuket since the honorary consuls began meeting with the various public officials. Sadly it is apparent that this problem is bigger than the Chief of Police & the Governor and it is time to admit defeat and demand that 'people' be brought from outside to sort out the problems.

Posted by Nip on September 2, 2011 09:32

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With these delays in consuls being contacted by the police is there not scope for an interwebby genius type to put together a list of consuls and their contact numbers and host it somewhere. I have emailed the UK Embassy to get Martin Carpenter's number - to no avail. Its a bit like insurance - we never need it but its handy to have when we do.

Posted by Mister ree on September 2, 2011 09:49

Editor Comment:

That's something for the consuls and embassies to consider. As you are probably aware, Phuketwan is in favor of a united system of travel alerts. The embassies still operate on a nation-by-nation basis. Some prefer emergency calls to go to embassies first, others operate the other way around.

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Henry says that people on the west coast 'gotta roll with the punches'. Henry, you condone lawlessness? We need to put up with thuggery (either that or move over to the east side)? So are you suggesting that the people of Patong and the west coast are asking too much in seeking the rule of law prevail? And no comment from the editor on this shallow input?

Posted by Ping on September 2, 2011 10:32

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How come there is talk of compensation, but not a word about arrests or punishment? And who is expected to pay this compensation, the victim, or the villains?

Posted by JD on September 2, 2011 13:53

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How can there be any kind of mediation if the perpetrators are unknown?

Posted by stevenl on September 2, 2011 14:58

Editor Comment:

It could be that others within the tuk-tuk groups recognise an injustice and are seeking to correct it . . . obliquely.


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