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Tourism Minister Somsak Pureesrisak will hear about Phuket's problems

Top Thai Police to Hear From EU Ambassadors About Phuket's Tourism, Tuk-Tuk Troubles

Monday, June 10, 2013
PHUKET: Europe's ambassadors are to meet with Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sport and Thailand's top police soon after they confer on Phuket about the problems of the island's tourism industry, Phuketwan has learned.

The growing problem of tuk-tuk and taxi commission-taking and extortionate fares, corruption among police and immigration officers, lack of a public bus network and a tendency to downplay attacks on women tourists are likely to be discussed at both meetings.

Eighteen ambassadors and senior envoys will gather on Phuket on Friday to hear briefings about Phuket's issues for tourists and expats.

Reports on that meeting and the meeting with minister Somsak Pureesrisak and Thailand's police chief and Tourist Police chief a fortnight later have been requested by the Prime Minister's office, a well-placed source has told Phuketwan.

When Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Cabinet met on Phuket last year, she made it plain that the Government wanted to obliterate all problems in tourism to maximise income.

In the meantime, the regular quarterly meetings between Phuket's honorary consuls and Phuket authorities have been discontinued.

Instead of being reduced, concerns about the safety, security and treatment of Phuket's tourists have grown.

Yet so far, Chinese officials have had no reaction from officials on Phuket to the forthright speech made almost two weeks ago by Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu.

The ambassador highlighted ineffective attempts at tourism protection on Phuket, corruption among some police and Immigration officers, and the need for more frequent safety warnings.

He called for the setting up of regular meetings to track progress in improving the situation on Phuket.

''We have had no feedback,'' said the Chinese Consul-General in Songkhla, Xu Miangliang, who oversees Phuket and who attended the earlier meeting.

''We do understand how busy everyone is. It was good of the Phuket authorities to meet with us and listen to what we had to say.''

The Chinese Ambassador took the opportunity presented by the gathering at Phuket Graceland Resort and Spa in Patong to note that 2.8 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year.One in three headed for Phuket, he said.

Infrastructure, the quality of guides, corruption among police and Immigration, zero-baht tours, needless drownings and other incidents and a lack of signage in Chinese were the six main problems he listed.

He recommended a special committee be established to control issues relating to tourism.

''These issues should be raised at least once a month and dealt with quickly,'' he said. ''Our aim is to help the industry to improve and to make good revenue for Thailand.''

No word has come in response from Phuket authorities so far. The consul-general told Phuketwan that a similar meeting on Samui had also failed so far to trigger an official reaction.

Until September last year, regular meetings were held between Phuket's honorary consuls and Phuket officials, headed by the Governor, to address issues of the kind raised by the Chinese Ambassador.

With the meeting with honorary consuls no longer being held, envoys have noted that progress has slowed in dealing with tourism-related issues on Phuket. The possible resumption of the honorary consuls' meetings is likely to be discussed on Friday.

Comments

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Nothing will happen until we have a drop of 50% of incoming tourists as blablabla since 15 years did nothing more that a smile from civil servants from bottom to the highest level in Bangkok.

The day they will transfers many civil servants to other provinces following by a full investigation by DSI and NACC about corruption in Phuket; then we may see a change....unfortunately it is a dream for many Phuketians

Posted by Whistle-Blower on June 10, 2013 13:44

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My friend arrived at PIA yesterday evening at 9pm. "Metered" taxis refused to take him to Chalong for anything less than Bt 700. "Limos" wanted Bt 1000. I can't imagine what they charge after midnight.

This is blatant extortion and daylight robbery in collusion with the impotent officials who allow this not only to continue right in front of their noses but to get significantly worse.

Two months ago the "metered" taxi fare was Bt 500, now it's up 40% to 700.

The actual metered fare to Chalong is about Bt 320. I managed to have one driver show me the fare once, although I had to of course pay him Bt 500 nevertheless. He simply used a hat to cover the meter but underneath is was running, just in case someone stops him to check it.

To call them "metered" is utterly pointless.

I have to be at the airport tomorrow at 8.30am and I have no idea how to get there without being ripped off. I have to take my own car, hope that I can find a place to park and pay the Bt 1400 parking fee for leaving it there for a week.

To say this situation infuriates me is the understatement of the month.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 10, 2013 14:24

Editor Comment:

All the fuss about Phuket's few metered taxis is a sideshow. The metered taxi drivers stopped using the meters so they could match the earnings of the other drivers. There are less than 100 of them and at latest estimates more than 5000 registered and illegal taxis. Focus on the metered cabs diverts attention from the core need: a central call centre and about one tenth the taxis. Once there's a call centre, there is no justification for charging passengers for the return journey they don't make. The fare can then be cut in half.

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I understand your point but they should not be a mere side show. Metered taxis should be the backbone of the private car-for-hire infrastructure and I don't think they should not be focused on.

I highlighted this incident because until now the few available "metered" taxis used to be the cheapest means of private transport from the airport.

It still is but just went up 40% in price within a period of 2 months. Proof that demanded prices have nothing to do with actual costs or did LPG/Gasoline suddenly become 40% more expensive ?

They now charge Bt 700 because the can. People do not have and these groups do not want them to have any other choices. This is the only reason why they manage to force people pay such inflated fares.

Call center would be great but as long as there is no competition or alternative to whatever prices the current taxi/minivan/limo/tuk-tuk cartels demand, they have no incentive whatsoever to reduce their fares.

Brave will be the taxi company who ventures along that road, or stupid, as I'm sure the person feels who set up the bus operation to run from the airport to west coast destinations and was left with a fleet of buses sitting idle.

To expect reduced costs to be passed on to the customer is, given the track record of the involved parties, in my opinion unrealistic.

Blessed will be the day when my pessimistic realism is proven invalid by positive, tangible facts. I'm not holding my breath though.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 10, 2013 15:00

Editor Comment:

The more you and other expats are whipped into a frenzy over the metered cabs sideshow, the less attention gets paid to the real problem and its solution.

Expats should be campaigning for an end to having to pay for the journey they don't take. Cut the standard Phuket fares in half, and there will be no complaints.

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The Phuket officials way of dealing with theses decade old problems, stop the pesky honorary consuls meetings then avoid the ambassador of China and his tongue lashing and massive loss of face then just carry on as usual till term of office is over and head back up north. problem solved.

Posted by Scunner on June 10, 2013 17:29

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Ed comment"The more you and other expats are whipped into a frenzy over the metered cabs sideshow, the less attention gets paid to the real problem and its solution.

Expats should be campaigning for an end to having to pay for the journey they don't take. Cut the standard Phuket fares in half, and there will be no complaints.'

Surely, if all cabs have meters and all use them,it instantly solves the problem..you only pay for time/distance travelled.No return trip kilometers involved..This is what happens in taxis near world wide and works well.Its logicical and easy to implement and easy to enforce by either, regular monitoring and/or a hotline call number for passengers to call if cab is not complying. Metered taxis are not a sideshow, they are the norm all over the world.

Posted by mal on June 10, 2013 17:36

Editor Comment:

We all know what works elsewhere. Is there another place where passengers have to pay for journeys they don't make? I think you're missing a few chunks of the history of Phuket taxis, mal. The biggest problem is that passengers are charged double what they should be. There's also no value in fitting meters if they are turned off or never used. Pulling the 100 (or fewer) metered taxis into line won't help to put meters in the other 4900 until the major scam is resolved: the double pricing. The call centre has to come before the meters.

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Ed' "There's also no value in fitting meters if they are turned off or never used. Pulling the 100 (or fewer) metered taxis into line won't help to put meters in the other 4900 until the major scam is resolved: the double pricing. The call centre has to come before the meters.'

Surely the scam will automatically dissapear as soon as meters are made compulsory here[why should Phuket be able to be different in this regard,when its easily done in the rest of the world?]If it is compulsory to have a meter, then that is the main starting point..no meter, no licence!!Then all that i posted above will automatically fall into place..ie complying with legal requirements, enforcement,etc. It is very obvious that by doing this it will, stop the return journey charge..the strict enforcement of the meter law [as is easily done worldwide]
What you say as above is reverse what is logical and do-able to stop the double pricing..if there was it would have been done years ago.In summary..If all 5000 taxis had meters fitted and monitored, then the major scam would not be possible..so easy! This is just logical...

Posted by mal on June 10, 2013 18:54

Editor Comment:

What needs to be addressed on Phuket is the rip-off, the overcharge, the highway robbery - the double fare the includes a journey back that passengers don't take. It's a scam. Once that issue is resolved, the introduction of meters becomes possible.Meters are used in other parts of Thailand, but not Phuket. Good luck with your meter introduction program.

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With all due respect - it's most regrettable that you feel you have to tell everyone else what to do and not to do. After all, I don't tell you what you should or should not do either now do I ?

I respect your POW and opinions and it would be appropriate for this to be reciprocal.

You do not, contrary to your deep conviction, have a monopoly on the "right" opinions and solutions.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 10, 2013 23:49

Editor Comment:

I don't have a monopoly on anything, Thai Mike, it's against my philosophy. But any ''opinion'' expressed here has to be supported by logic and reason. Guesswork doesn't cut it. I have no idea what a POW is, but anonymous commenters with fake names will always remain anonymous commenters with fake names. Respect can only be earned in the real world. Our journalism is in the real world. The comments are not. If you have no additional information of value to relate, don't bother commenting.

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A quick comparison with Suvarnabhumi which caters to a lot more arrivals than PIA is that, prices for AOT limos to destinations in Bangkok are at the same level if not more expensive than fares charged in Phuket for the same distances. Only very few passengers use public transport service ie bus or sky train ... most use metered taxies where they just add 50 THB to the start price and then the rest via the meter ... and many tourists are also picked up by tour busses, large and small. I do not hear many complaints about the transport to and from Suvarnabhumi so I guess most are happy, the major difference between the two airports are that there are too few metered taxies and for the very few that prefer a public bus then that is missing as well. So what we need to get to the Suvarnabhumi level is quite simply more metered taxis and get the airport bus running. Beside from that PIA need a proper covered parking area, if AOT can't figure out how to arrange and run such a thing then I am sure there are private companies that would be more than happy both to build and operate one, should they be handed the opportunity.

Posted by Sailor on June 11, 2013 06:55

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@Scunner "Problem Solved". You got it in one. Historically correct too.

Posted by helen on June 11, 2013 09:30

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Some of us are oft criticised by the Ed for being unrealistic and not knowing how Phuket works. Interesting when some here have 20 years plus of living with Phuket's problems and seeing the place slide further and further down hill ( I wait for the Ed's 'if you don't like it leave retort) We then get accused of being unrealistic about things. 20 years ago there WAS a taxi cartel at the airport- it was called 'Thai Limousines' and was run as an offshoot of the airlines. fair prices, clean cars and no rip offs. They were set up to do collections as well as drop offs so fares could remain low. At some point over the years they faded away and the current system jumped in to fill the void.

100 people ripping off customers is a 'side show? An interesting concept. As Mao said - any journey starts with the first step' and those fitted with meters at present should be forced to use them.
There are some valid points above but as usual Mr ed seems to feel the need to shoot them down when it doesn't fall within his perception of things. A shame really as both sides have valid points to make.

Posted by Mister Ree on June 11, 2013 13:39

Editor Comment:

As long experience should have taught you on Phuket, Mister Ree, having the numbers on your side doesn't mean you are right. Nor does experience mean that those who have been here longest know what's good for the rest - although the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers would agree with you. Worry about the small issues all you like. The metered taxis are a separate entity unconnected with the other taxis and tuk-tuks. I suspect those fixated on the metered cabs just want to solve their own transport problems, never mind the rest.

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POW was a typo, should be POV as in Point of View and yes, my Alias has no reference to my real identity.

I'm currently at Changi APT on my way to Australia but will be back next week. I'm more than happy to meet you in person and discuss any issues you'd like to address face to face in real world.

Just let me know where and when to meet and I'll be there.

I'll bring my Passport to be fair.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 11, 2013 17:49

Editor Comment:

My rates are the same as the jet-skis, ThaiMike. 2000 baht will earn you 20 minutes.

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Editor Comment:

What needs to be addressed on Phuket is the rip-off, the overcharge, the highway robbery - the double fare the includes a journey back that passengers don't take. It's a scam. Once that issue is resolved, the introduction of meters becomes possible.Meters are used in other parts of Thailand, but not Phuket. Good luck with your meter introduction program."

What on earth are you on about Mr Ed?
Ramble , rave around in circles..Why cant you see and admit that compulsory fitting and use of meters is the be all and end all of all the above you are raving about?For crying out loud man..it works in every other country in the world and also most of the rest of Thailand..Then there is no possibilty of "the rip-off, the overcharge, the highway robbery - the double fare the includes a journey back that passengers don't take"
And now you say this.." I suspect those fixated on the metered cabs just want to solve their own transport problems, never mind the rest."
What ,again, are you on about? You obviously have some sort of twisted adgenda..got me beat!!You really are one screwed up individual!!

Posted by mal on June 11, 2013 17:56

Editor Comment:

Readers can decide for themselves who has their hands firmly on the steering wheel and who doesn't. No need for me to add a word.

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It seems to me that ed does not want the installation of metered taxis or any changes to the situatiion here in Phuket: "Meters are used in other parts of Thailand, but not Phuket. Good luck with your meter introduction program", that's what he wrote.

Posted by Ray on June 11, 2013 22:47

Editor Comment:

Your misinterpretation, Ray. Please read a bit more. Meters would help. But the meters are less significant than the need to cut the fares in half and adopt a call centre system.

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Meters and illegal taxis are a result of the problem: the taxi coops with their rules, tariffs etc.

So yes, meters would be good and would also be good in a call center system, but meters are just a small part of a bigger solution necessary.

Posted by stevenl on June 12, 2013 07:11

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when ed. comment on every comment that not a comment do we need that?..

Posted by TaKa on June 12, 2013 08:57

Editor Comment:

your first comment is a comment about comments and we don't need that. And if by ''we'' you mean Phuketwan's 50,000 readers a week, I'd say about 49,900 are grateful for the free news and information. The editor's comments are as insignificant as yours.

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Editor Comment:

your first comment is a comment about comments and we don't need that. And if by ''we'' you mean Phuketwan's 50,000 readers a week, I'd say about 49,900 are grateful for the free news and information. The editor's comments are as insignificant as yours

50,000 readers a week? What a load of crock.
50,000 hits ..yes, but many people with easy access these days can check in on your crazy comments , 10-12 times a day..Actual "readers" would be 10% of your figure.One thing you say which would be agreed on though is this "The editor's comments are as insignificant as yours."
So, why not desist with your comments and just let the real readers..read the news.
It is very noticeable when you take a break that there are no smart arse comments on here...you create and cause them all, makes it all self perpetuating..just so you can say you have an absurd amount of ''readers''.
How about you take a break for a week, [sounds like you really need to] and prove this point>
You wont do so, because you know how true it is, and we all know how you hate to be wrong, even though you very often are.

Posted by mal on June 12, 2013 11:02

Editor Comment:

Using the term ''hits'' to describe users shows how ignorant you are of the online world, mal.

We track both unique visitors and the number of times they visit. Only you and perhaps one or two other people without real lives visit Phuketwan more than twice a day.

Alexa.com has Phuketwan ranked at 36,518 over the past seven days, so thank you for coming. What I have been thinking of doing is switching off the comments button, but that would be unfair to the readers who genuinely have something to add.

I don't have a problem with being wrong, but i do object to having my time wasted.

What I will do is just not post your specific comments for the next week. Hope you enjoy your holiday. I certainly will.

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Should I also check your underside for pre-existing damage before paying up ?

Not looking forward to that to be honest.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 13, 2013 06:53

Editor Comment:

No preexisting damage, just a few barnacles.


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