Taxi Stand-off: US Still Loves Phuket Shore Leave
Monday, June 14, 2010
AN INCIDENT on Phuket in which US Navy and Coast Guard personnel were briefly prevented from enjoying their shore leave last night was not considered serious enough to warrant questions being asked of the Thai Government, a US embassy spokesperson said today.
Local taxi drivers, concerned that they were losing money, blocked vans from carrying US personnel from Phuket's deep sea port at Cape Panwa to Patong for about two hours.
However, with the intervention of Phuket Navy League officials, who were with senior US Embassy officials at the time, the situation was resolved.
Local taxi drivers, short of work in the tourism downturn caused by Bangkok violence and non-specific travel alerts, had been led to believe that US personnel were being charged 200 baht to ride in the passenger vans.
Sources told Phuketwan
today that this was the cause of the misunderstanding. ''The sailors were as usual given the option of riding on the vans for free or of taking taxis and paying for them,'' one well-connected contact said today.
The matter was resolved by negotiation. But for two hours, senior US officers were forced to suspend the transfer of personnel from three US vessels to shore, and return trips of personnel from Patong.
The matter is unlikely to be raised at a senior level - a move that would highlight the problems associated with Phuket's lack of public transport and the exorbitant fares charged by tuk-tuks and taxis on the island.
However, Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob, who extended his term of office pre-retirement to October to help solve Phuket's public transport problems, is likely to take steps to ensure an incident of this kind does not happen again.
Phuket, a major international holiday destination, has a village-based transportation system that restricts open trade and fair pricing. Americans are not known to support that kind of system.
The USS Curts, the USS Vandegrift and the US Coast Guard cutter Mellon are the latest in a long line of US warships and other vessels that have contributed handsomely to Phuket's tourism revenue over the past two years.
Comments have been disabled for this article.
It's such a shame that the years of hard work by the expats on the Southern Seaboard Council of the US Navy League, (having recently had Lt. Cmdr. Ashford, USN liaison officer stationed in Bangkok announce a switch from Pattaya to Phuket for US Navy personnel on R&R) may have been destroyed in a few hours of unbridled greed.
Besides infusing Phuket's economy, US Navy personnel also conduct community relations projects such as painting schools, rebuilding playgrounds, etc.
Phuket US Navy League: http://navyleaguephuket.org/
June 14, 2010 16:21
Absolutely unreal! The one hope that the island has during this lower than low season is a visit or two from visiting foreign troops, but the taxi m**** want to put paid to that as well.
I strongly suspect that the reason the US Navy hired vans was in response to the reports of taxis charging 2000 baht from Panwa to Patong during a navy visit earlier this year.
Pity that the US won't be filing a high level complaint with the Thai Government.
June 14, 2010 16:37
'Shore leave'? I heard it was more like 'whore leave'.
Editor: Oh, you are a wit. If that was the case, Pattaya would still be the destination of preference. You are living in the past, Callum. The US sailors we've encountered are citizens of the 21st century. Most are young, clean-cut and happy to bypass Bangla.
June 14, 2010 16:43
oh c'mon editor...You're 20 yrs old or so...out at sea for 100 days give or take, your hormones are raging, and finally you arrive in Phuket ...Now lets face it...Phuket has many wonderful things to offer, one of which are the many beautiful ladies hanging out in Patong waiting to "accommodate" men like these...why deny it?!
Editor: We don't make assumptions based on myths. We wouldn't assume, for example, that you go anywhere near Soi Bangla. Why generalise? There are plenty of women crew too these days. Your assumptions are 40 years out of date.
June 14, 2010 17:38
Taxi drivers short of work because of the economic downturn.
Think a lot has to do with them being greedy in the past and now everyone is giving them a wide berth and arranging there own transport, good enough for them wanting to charge 2000 baht to get to Patong everyone should make other arrangements. Unless they can offer a fair price everyone should give them a wide berth.
June 14, 2010 19:24
Editor.yes there is more female crew...however, your opinions I think are a bit jaded...My "assumptions are 40 years out of date???"...when was the last time you walked down bangla on any given night??...and what exactly are most of those girls working Bangla selling???...Who are you protecting?
Editor: Er, the US Navy?
June 14, 2010 19:57
The best way to hurt these (I don't really know what to call them)tuk tuk ***** I suppose, is to tell anyone you can Not To Use them. Over the last two years I must have stopped about 60 visiting friends from using them. I will go out of my way to give people lifts so they do.
June 14, 2010 20:45
I wish this had gone to the highest level and Bangkok.The tuk tuk men are shameless, and I believe many of the blockaders haven't even had their vehicles licensed. The police didn't move them on.
Somebody commented on a net forum that Phuket is undeserving of tourism and I'm starting to agree.
June 14, 2010 22:19
These tuc tuc drivers are digging Phuket's grave. After all these years of complaints and violence, shame on the authorities for doing Nothing !!!!
June 14, 2010 22:29
Why not leave the Island fully to the Tuk Tuk m****. No need for a governor or police etc.
Phuket is a sinking ship, as we all can observe.
June 15, 2010 02:38
I'm obviously hopelessly naive, because I would have thought that the police (who, last time I checked, had the job of enforcing laws) could have moved the tuk tuks on in quick order. Apparently not.
Whatever about travel advisories, travel companies, tour operators etc should advise their customers to avoid tuk tuks whenever possible. It will stop some nasty shocks and stop feeding the beast.
In relation to the current event, it was only a few months ago that Phuketwan was reporting on the widespread disquiet amongst navy personnel about the 2000 baht fares being charged.
They're cutting their own throats. Not only are the tuk tuk drivers not now getting the sailors arriving in port, you can be damned sure that the same sailors will be giving them a wide berth whenever possible for the remainder of their shore leave. As I'm fond of saying, eventually Phuket will get the tourist business it deserves.
June 15, 2010 07:32
200 Baht is what the fare should be. Law and order is totally out of hand in Phuket nowadays. The lowest of all low-seasons - well, you haven't seen nothing yet! Thieves and scammers all around the island, the currency is somewhat all time high, the Thais raise all prices when things are bad... so its even more expensive than before...not logic at all. Then we have the reds vs the yellows...the never ending story. Who will wanna come for a visit? In my book it's not so tempting any more.
Tired of the "new" Phuket
June 15, 2010 07:48
Editor, you're a dickwad saying you're protecting the US Navy. We don't need no protection from you! I LOVE SOI BANGLA AND SO DO MY BUDDIES!
Editor: I was joking. I guess you can't tell, eh?
June 15, 2010 16:04
I wonder if there ever will be a limit as to how much damage the Tuk-Tuk M**** can inflict on Phuket tourism before someone intervenes ?
The local law enforcement and government have proven themselves to be totally impotent to deal with this.
What is needed is immediate and comprehensive action by the central government in BKK. As if business in Phuket was not bad enough already.
Interestingly the same story reported on another english language local newspaper website has quite a different tone from this one which seems keen on downplaying the issue. Interesting contrast there.
Editor: Phuketwan took the trouble to check with the US Embassy and reported the official reaction. They downplayed it, not us.
June 15, 2010 17:58
Corruption, extortion and cheating is the way of Thailand. It won't change cause of bunch of "Farang" are whining.
Editor, if trash-free scenery were what US navy personnel wanted, they'd go to Malaysia.
Editor: To say that ''corruption, extortion and cheating is the way of Thailand'' is a generalised piece of bigotry. I think you'll find more of of all three on Wall St. If you suggesting there is no prostitution in Malaysia, then you have been misinformed.
June 17, 2010 09:48
I literally meant " Trash free" as in garbage.
Thailand is renown as THE country to go for prostitutes, you are just plain wrong if you think this is not a consideration in the Navy choosing it as a R&R port.
Editor: I didn't take the trash reference any other way, but you've made the same point more than once.
June 21, 2010 13:53