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Governor Tri Augkaradacha has a plan to lower tuk-tuk fares

Exclusive: Taming Phuket's Tuk-Tuks: What the Governor Plans to Do Next

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
PHUKET Governor Tri Augkaradacha spelled out his plan for taming the tuk-tuks in an exclusive interview with Phuketwan today, 24 hours after a lively meeting with Phuket's honorary consuls and embassy representatives.

One magic moment came at yesterday's summit in Phuket City when German honorary consul Dirk Naumann told the the gathering that he had prepared for the tuk-tuk debate by going to Phuket International Airport and questioning 100 departing Germans.

''I asked them what their biggest problem was on Phuket,'' Mr Naumann said. ''Fifteen out of the hundred said they would not come to Phuket again because of the tuk-tuks.''

Mr Naumann then debated the issue with Patong Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukban. Mr Naumann demolished Khun Chairat's defence of the tuk-tuks' high fares, and today many in-the-know people on Phuket were still buzzing about the way Mr Naumann had argued the case for lower fares.

Phuket's Governor Tri also had his say, making the point that he would like to have meters like Bangkok but that for the time being, most of the taxis on Phuket were illegal.

Governor Tri's master strategy for the island's taxis is a progressive step-by-step conversion of green plates to yellow plates, to introduce a proper call centre system, and to add meters.

At one point he revealed that the maximum fares imposed for tuk-tuks recently from Patong around Phuket are based on four people as passengers.

In theory, if just one person is travelling, the negotiated fare should be somewhere between the maximum and one quarter of the maximum. In practice, it may not turn out quite like that.

Enforcement of the maximums will come into effect at the end of the month: any driver who charges more than the agreed maximums could then be reported to police and face arrest.

The price around Patong, where the maximum is 200 baht, should be 100 baht or 120 baht for some short trips involving one or two people, he said.

Today with Phuketwan he elaborated on his plan in an exclusive interview at Provincial Hall in Phuket City. Governor Tri said that if the present rules work, he will look at more changes in three months, in time for the next meeting of honorary consuls.

''It's a step by step thing,'' he told Phuketwan. ''These issues have been left unsolved for more than a decade. If we can fix Patong, then we can fix the problems for all of Phuket.''

How long will it take for solving the island's present taxi/tuk-tuk transport issues? ''Three years,'' the governor said.

The taxi call centre in Patong, with a telephone number that will double as a complaints hotline, should be in place within the next three months, he said.

His explanation today followed a fascinating cut-and-thrust yesterday between Mr Naumann and Khun Chairat.

Mr Naumann opened his remarks on the tuk-tuks by saying he was ''happy to have a governor who is finally doing something.''

Then he posed a question or two, beginning with:

''How is it that a trip on Phuket from Patong to the airport costs many times more in an open-air tuk-tuk than it does in Bangkok in an air-conditioned taxi?''

He noted that taxi fares in his home city of Hamburg were comparable with Phuket, but in Hamburg the passengers rode in a fully equipped Mercedes 280 in air-conditioned comfort. On Phuket, the tuk-tuk was open-air, unsafe, and without room for luggage.

''Is this fair for tourists?'' Mr Naumann asked. ''On behalf of all the honorary consuls, I would like to suggest that these fares are too high. Based on my interviews at Phuket airport, the German people will come to Phuket less and less frequently.''

Khun Chairat said that the cost of living in Bangkok was cheaper than the cost of living in Phuket, hence the lower fares.

Mr Naumann said that taxi and tuk-tuk drivers in both places lived in areas where they paid local prices, which were comparable.

Mr Naumann said a Bangkok taxi cost about 450,000-500,000 baht, whereas a Phuket tuk-tuk cost 150,000 baht. The tuk-tuk only used a two-stroke engine.

Khun Chairat said Phuket's hilly terrain meant the tuk-tuks used more fuel, and it was petrol, not gas, as in Bangkok: Mr Naumann responded that all of the terrain in Patong was flat.

On a journey from Patong to Phuket airport, only 800 metres was involved negotiating Patong Hill, and half of that was heading downwards, with no fuel expended.

''Why not have Bangkok-style taxis in Patong, if they are so much cheaper to run?'' said Mr Naumann.

Khun Chairat said the tuk-tuk customers were mostly ''rich'' tourists. He also noted that in Bangkok, taxis could pick up passengers anywhere, but on Phuket they were forced to make the return journey to their base area without a passenger to cover the extra cost . . .

The question was left dangling. Well then, why not have a system where taxis and tuk-tuks can pick up passengers all over Phuket?

The moment passed.

It was a lively debate. Governor Tri believes that feedback on the newly set maximum fares, to be collected from tourists over the next three months, will be positive, and that the next step can then be taken.

''Prices will become lower,'' he promised. Mr Naumann responded: ''We very much appreciate your efforts.''
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Comments

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Dirk Naumann for Governor!

Posted by Chalongian on February 22, 2011 23:06

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"Khun Chairat said the tuk-tuk customers were mostly 'rich' tourists."

That says it all. Screw the rich tourists. That's what is about. That's what it's always been about.

Posted by Mike Boyd on February 22, 2011 23:10

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Same old same old always trying to defend the undefendable. Unless the number of tuk-tuks are greatly reduced so they can work all day instead sitting on the side of the street trying to live off one or two fares a day, nothing will never change.

Posted by JB on February 22, 2011 23:17

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"Khun Chairat said the tuk-tuk customers were mostly 'rich' tourists."

Go on then, take from them again, again, and again. Have you not noticed that the "Rich" tourists are not coming here anymore ???

One should put their brain in gear before engaging the mouth, Khun Chairat.

Posted by Robin on February 23, 2011 08:00

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And the story goes on but nothing will ever change. Well done Dirk i hear you, but nothing for the other consuls.

Posted by Lord Jim on February 23, 2011 08:51

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Mr Naumann is exactly what we need. Articulate, outspoken, undaunted and backed up with a wealth of experience.

Phuket authorities have been stalling for years and the same problems persist.

It's time to apply maximum pressure on them so they are forced to understand the time is up.

I can't wait to see what happens in BKK next month when all the HCs in Thailand are invited to meet the relevant ministers.

Hopefully someone in BKK will force the Phuket authorities to act, just like they did last year when the "Bar Mat" lady was arrested and jailed.

Interestingly enough soon after the incident the officer in charge, Superintendent Col Grissak Songmoonnak, was moved off Phuket to Nakhon Nowhere.

A proof of the power foreign media pressure can have on events in Phuket. Hopefully the HCs will follow on the same path in this situation.

@ Mike Boyd - You hit the nail on the head:

SCREW THE RICH TOURISTS

Khun Chairat finally said aloud what most have suspected to be the real reason why these problems persist.

Authorities who think it's perfectly ok to cheat "rich foreigners" should be dismissed immediately.

To be kind, that attitude would be called discrimination, but it comes very close to qualifying as racism.

For a place that generates over 80 percent of it's income from foreigners, having authorities with such a mindset is suicidal.

Phuripat Theerakulpisut, Chief of Phuket's Marine Office 5, should join Khun Chairat in the first batch to be wheeled off Phuket.

His comments to the Australian HC Larry Cunningham reveal exactly the same attitude:

"Jet-ski operators were just typical Thai people living a hand-to-mouth existence, he said.

They aren't rich people like you," he told the Australian.

Posted by Chris on February 23, 2011 10:05

Editor Comment:

Anonymous commenters online have all the answers, but none of the responsibility. Wrongly blaming individuals for mistakes that have been festering for many years solves nothing. The narrow views you so easily attribute to people you've probably never met are also evident in spades from expat onlookers. The hon cons are looking for solutions, not somebody to blame.

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Ed, I don't "attribute narrow views" on anyone. I merely quoted what these people said and expressed my opinion on that.

I am not blaming them for anything but their own words.

IMO a significant part of the solution would be to remove any officials displaying the "cheat the rich foreigners" attitude.

By their own admission, both Khun Chairat and Khun Phuripat fall into this category.

Looking at what happened to Khun Grissak, it seems that someone in BKK agrees anti-foreigner attitudes among officials in Phuket are not desirable.

At least not if they are suddenly made public.

The HCs may or may not agree, but let's leave that for them to say if they see it fit.

I understand what you mean about Anonymous comments and I'll be more than happy to provide you with my full name, address and phone number if you want me to.

You can forward them to both Khun Chairat and Khun Phuripat if you so wish.

Mind you though that most of us who comment here do not have the relative protection the publicity bestowes upon you.

A reporter is always on the firing line but you can at least easily make it publicly know if someone applies pressure to you because of something you wrote.

If that would happen to me as a consequence of what I wrote here, would you be willing to report it?

Posted by Chris on February 23, 2011 10:53

Editor Comment:

There is no evidence that Colonel Grissak's transfer had anything to do with the beer mat incident. We'd be astonished if it did.

Our aim is to fix the system, not target individuals. That would be pointless.

The honorary consuls forum is a surefire means of breaking down some of the prejudices on both sides. We don't expect the cracks about ''rich'' tourists will be repeated.

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Ed, as you know from my previous postings on Phuket Wan, I do not 'hide' behind anonymity and am proud to own a small but busy hotel on the island.

I'm also proud to have worked as a volunteer officer with the Phuket Tourist Police, assisting tourists when problems befell them, whether or not these were of their own making or not.

I am very saddened at the comments from Khun Chairat about 'rich tourists'. It is totally irrelevant whether the tourist is 'rich' or not.

The issue is about providing a decent tuk-tuk service, at a price that is both fair to the passengers and to those drivers who provide the service.

I am sorry to say that Khun Chairat's comments clearly show his own, biased opinion in this matter.

I applaud Dirk Naumann's stance and his courage in speaking up. I sincerely hope his medical and life insurance premiums are all up-to-date

Posted by Simon Luttrell on February 23, 2011 13:27

Editor Comment:

I think it was just a slip of the tongue on Khun Chairat's part. As everyone knows, he is far wealthier than most tourists.

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Dirk Naumann ... way to go! Amazing to see that each question posed was responded with a lame (very lame) excuse from the Thai Authorities.

The comment about "RICH" tourists was particularly disturbing as it indicates that it's OK to rip-off tourists on the basis of their wealth. Let's see the Gov paying over the odds and see how he feels. I'm sure he can afford it.

As Mr Naumann rightly pointed out, many German tourists (and others around the globe) won't be coming back based on the rip-offs.

So the Gov says it'll take about 3 years to sort out. Is he going to be around then? Of course not, so that's a great cop-out, he'll simply do nothing, achieve nothing and then the next one steps in to do the same all over again.

Do the Thai Authorities actually care? It would appear not.

Posted by Graham on February 23, 2011 14:19

Editor Comment:

The Governor is very keen to lower the price of tuk-tuks so it's unfair to personalise the issue. He is in a position where he has to deal with years of neglect. As Mr Naumann said, the honorary consuls are ''happy to have a governor who is finally doing something.'' It's say that westerners project every problem onto individuals: the cult of personality. And to attribute the emotion of ''caring'' or not to a group as large as Thai authorities goes to the other extreme. Plenty of people among them do care, and some don't.

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Ed, I'm not going to disagree, there are always good and bad in official in positions. What needs to happen here is real action and direction. Anyone can talk.

The Gov is also the appointed official and so it is he and he alone who should be able to direct Phuket in manner that is acceptable to tourists and other nationalities living here. Yes, we have to take into account what the Thais want as well, but this shouldn't include allowing them to break the law just to make a living.

We have already seen, in another of your articles, regarding the erection of Billboards, warning tourists of the touts, who are predominately foreign nationals, so why can they do the same for the Tuk Tuk's and JetSkis. As I said in that post... show some action, show us you care, show us what you can do... level the playing field.

If there are NO Dark influences as reported by the Authorities then erecting a similar billboard shouldn't be any problem at all.

Posted by Graham on February 23, 2011 17:43

Editor Comment:

Graham, billboards are a traditional form of advertising that some say really shouldn't even be permitted on a tourist island like Phuket, where aesthetics are important. Do you really want more billboards? The mayor's action sends an important signal but billboards won't take the touts off the streets, which is what needs to happen. More billboards? Not the answer. Change is.

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Been living in patong 3 years. about 7 nights ago 4 people wanted to go to the hard rock cafe. stopped 3 tuk tuks in a row and they all wanted 1 thousand baht to go 1km. keep going guys, the tourists will find somewhere else to go if no meters

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011 00:27


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