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Tuk-tuk solutions are on the way, says Phuket's Governor

Tuk-Tuk Problems Solved Soon: Phuket Governor

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
PHUKET Governor Tri Augkaradacha says that he expects there will be ''much progress'' and possibly even solutions for Phuket's tuk-tuk and taxi transport system within the next three months.

Standard fares for tuk-tuks have gone. It is now a matter of negotiation between customer and driver, a meeting heard a senior transport official report yesterday.

''There will be a big difference in the next three months,'' Governor Tri told a ''Phuket Parliament'' of Phuket honorary consuls and senior island police and officials.

As a Vice Governor before taking the senior role, Governor Tri said he had been looking closely at the issues for many months. Planning was well under way and the reversal of the Patong one-way system would be the first concrete result, clearing up Patong's beachfront parking.

A scheme to register illegal ''black'' taxis is already underway, Phuketwan has reported, with an office open at the bypass road in Phuket City where drivers are signing on. Those who sign on will form the core group to become part of the proposed call centre for all Phuket resorts.

''We need to see this in action before forming judgements for the rest of the island,'' Governor Tri said. ''I guarantee that the next three months will bring big changes.''

The governor's comments came after several honorary consuls had raised the issue, including Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham, who said he had been jeered by local taxi drivers in Surin as he headed for yesterday's meeting. He called for an end to the aggressive behavior of some tuk-tuk drivers towards tourists.

He said that tourists had told of being threatened by tuk-tuk drivers with guns. ''Every person who has a good holiday on Phuket tells five or six people that they had a great time,'' he said. ''Every person who has a bad experience because of a tuk-tuk driver tells at least 100 people.''

The Director of the Phuket Transport Office, Kanok Siripanichkoon, said that there were no longer standard fares for tuk-tuks, and that all fares were now a matter of negotiation between customers and drivers.

He told the honorary consul for Finland, Pamuke Achariyayachai, who called for a speedy solution, that the Phuket tuk-tuk structure was ''far more complicated'' than in Bangkok, where fares are up to 10 times lower.

Governor Tri said he ''knows the solutions'' and was already implementing them with assistance from police on Phuket and in Bangkok.

There was also a free and frank exchange of views regarding the behavior of expat tourists with Dr Wiwat Sitamanoch, Deputy Director of Phuket Public Health, pointing out that drinking alcohol contributed to many mishaps on Phuket roads.

''The different system of driving on the left also confuses some people,'' he said.

The Chief Executive of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, Paiboon Upatising, said that many tourists did not obey signs at Phuket's beaches and went into the water during the monsoon season regardless of lifeguards and without an understanding of the dangers.

Khun Paiboon suggested establishing a committee to pursue the decisions made by the ''Parliament'' so that there would be positive outcomes, not just talk. The next meeting is scheduled for February.
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Update An expat resident is struck and killed by a car as he strolls across the road from his favorite bar to his home in the southern Phuket district of Rawai.
Phuket Expat Killed Crossing Road from Bar

Phuket Police 'Still Hold Some Passports'
Latest Phuket police still sometimes hold passports in what could be misinterpreted as a bid to extort money from tourists, honorary consuls have told Phuket's police chief.
Phuket Police 'Still Hold Some Passports'

Phuket Travel Warning: Don't Try Insurance Fraud
Latest Australia may make it official soon: Don't try insurance fraud, it could spoil your holiday. Increasing numbers of fraud attempts have alarmed police and honorary consuls.
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No Phuket Deaths from Box Jellyfish: Misinformation Shocks Expert
Latest No deaths have occurred on Phuket from box jellyfish, the Swedish honorary consul said today in reporting that three Swedes have died in three years from the toxic tentacles.
No Phuket Deaths from Box Jellyfish: Misinformation Shocks Expert

Tragedy Off Phuket: Tanker Captain Dies at Sea
UPDATE and Photo Album The captain of a tanker bound for India was found dead in bed, so officials organised transfer of his body to the nearest port - Phuket.
Tragedy Off Phuket: Tanker Captain Dies at Sea

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Can some body explain why Phuket tuk-tuk structure was ''far more complicated'' than in Bangkok.

It is hard to understand that transportation is so complicated in a small province and so simple in a huge city with millions of people.

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on November 23, 2010 14:40

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The good Dr. may be right about the alcohol but I would have liked to hear the exchange. Hopefully it included the speeding, passing on blind curves, running red lights etc... It is confusing driving on the left when that is the lane for oncoming motorbikes. As for the lifeguards, kudos to doing a good job but I witnessed a somtam/babe watching display 2 weeks ago by these 'guards' and found it disturbing. Watch the water! And another idea, with the colored flags, put the explanation on the flag so people will understand what it means.

Posted by jon on November 23, 2010 15:53

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Last weekend at Karon I was confused on where it was safe, those small tattered flags are not visible at certain angles from a short distance.
I asked a life guard who motioned "center , stay center" I could not understand what he meant.
He did NOT point me to a few hundred meters down the beach where a safe to swim area was which I found later on a walk.
I saw many people in when I took it to be unsafe as guards were distracted and huddled behind obstructions way up on the beach. At least jet skis were kept in an area away from this area. So, safe from Jetskis running you over- well it's a start

It's all so... lame .

Posted by Media Watcher on November 23, 2010 21:11

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So we go from no fares and intimidation, to fixed prices being published at JC and back to no prices - that is progress 555

Posted by Mister Ree on November 23, 2010 21:32

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too many tuk tuks fighting for money, not enough customers.

too bad the bus route got canceled ( by force)

Posted by mikey on November 23, 2010 23:21

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I struggle to understand how abandoning standard fares could possibly be a positive development for the tourists.

Tourists in general have little or no understanding of local prices and are easy pickings for overcharging.

What this "senior transport official" has done plays right into the hands of those tuk-tuk and taxi drivers who overcharge. I wonder what was the HC's response to that, if they were able to give one.

The price of a fare should be the same regardless of race, nationality, skin color, financial or immigration status.

Set REASONABLE standard fares and mandate that EVERY tuk-tuk and Taxi must display ID number and a complaint hotline number manned by both Thai AND English-speaking staff.

A Tuk-Tuk costs Bt 20 in Had-Yai. How on earth can local officials keep defending prices 10 to 30 times that is beyond me.

Posted by Chris on November 23, 2010 23:27

Editor Comment:

I don't think local officials are defending the high fares on Phuket - quite the opposite. But years of neglect have created the situation where change has become more difficult. As a group, the honorary consuls were pressing strongly for reforms this week. But the Governor urged patience because there is a plan for reform in place. Thai residents are, of course, the ones who can least afford to travel after dark unless they have their own vehicles.

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This reminds me of the guy who promised to solve the problem about Bangkok's traffic jams within 90 days from his election. In the meantime he got famous for other achievements....

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on November 24, 2010 01:37

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HOW BORING IS THIS STORY NOW?
GET A LIFE PHUKET WAN!!!!!!

Posted by Nick on November 24, 2010 03:42

Editor Comment:

Most of us don't get bored as easily as you do, Nick.

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The regular meetings between the honorary consuls and the governor seems to start baring fruits. Sound all very promising. The consuls have guts. I hope the will be able to continue and reach their objectives. Phuket needs a lot of changes and improvements. Because corruption and cartels are killing tourism on the short run. Give the consuls good protection because rumors go around that they will be targeted by "dark" but powerful people or organised groups.

Posted by PatongExpat on November 24, 2010 09:10

Editor Comment:

Believe those rumors, PatongExpat, and you start believing all the nonsense that's been spouted over the years about Phuket. It's time you told the rumor-spreaders to stop.

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(moderated)
Btw don't make it your daily job to give your personal opinion. Unless you have something to say based on facts. If you want to keep readers, you shouldn't make from PhuketWan your personal weblog.

Posted by PatongExpat on November 24, 2010 11:17

Editor Comment:

Patong Expat, I am here to prevent people spreading misinformation. You should be ashamed of yourself. Go spread your evil rubbish somewhere else.

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So I spread misinformation yesterday saying that the tuk tuk structure is a ***** one! that's why you didn't publish it? Sorry then, you are right, this transport system is completely legal in accordance with the law, nobody should try to change it, it's here to stay, expats & tourists have to deal with. Police will continue catching people for not wearing a helmet and asking for driving license but black tuk tuk having a gun still ok.

Posted by Jean-Paul Patrick on November 24, 2010 13:59

Editor Comment:

Jean-Paul, If you want to go up to a tuk-tuk driver and call him names, as you did in the message we chose not to publish, don't let me stop you. Go right ahead. But don't expect us to stand between you and the tuk-tuk driver.

On this site, we prefer to hear from readers who have something new to say, who aren't just repeating the same old myths. The situation is changing, as we have reported. If you have a positive suggestion, we'd be happy to hear it.

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I fail to see how reversing traffic flow in Patong will increase the number of available parking places. Along the beach road, countless empty tuktuks park on the mountain-side of the road, while every available parking spot on the sea-side of the road is occupied by impossibly high numbers of rent-a-cars and rental motorbikes. Reversing the flow of traffic will do NOTHING to change this.

What we need is severe limits on the number of tuktuks in Patong, and the number of empty rental vehicles a dealer can bring to the beach. (Let'em keep their as-yet unneeded stock elsewhere and bring 'em in as needed.)

Likewise, I don't see how anyone except a rabid tuktuk driver could see the abandonment of stadardized fares as anything but a lowering of consumer protection, and a BAD thing for Phuket. These violent, greedy, overnumbered and undereployed extortionists are a very visible reminder of how out-of-control Phuket is, and how inceasingly unattractive to vacationers who just want a safe place to relax.

Posted by Tired of the act on November 24, 2010 20:05

Editor Comment:

The reversal of the traffic flow is what's known as an opportunity, a chance to make other changes at the same time. Several reports have explained aspects of the new system, although a complete version has yet to be revealed.

Stating the obvious over and over again really doesn't achieve much. Phuket remains a desirable place for a holiday, otherwise arrival numbers would be falling.

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So sad, it borders on pathetic. The governor appears to be suggesting that the free market of 'negotiation' will mean that lower fares will be arrived at.

In reality, since there are no alternatives to the tuk tuks (did the governor manage to investigate an island-wide bus network?), the tuk tuk drivers simply revert to their unwritten fare structure. 200 baht to go 200 metres and upwards from there.

They're a fully-functioning cartel and if you want to get from A to B on Phuket, you pay their prices. Fail to agree a price with one tuk tuk and you'll find all the other tuk tuks quoting the same one.

The only thing that makes tuk tuk costs on Phuket 'far more complicated' than Bangkok is that they have had to pay a series of unofficial, ahem, tariffs to get their tuk tuks and licences to various public officials and co-operative owners. The reversion to cartel rates simply enables them to carry on paying the loans they incurred.

The only strategy that will bear fruit for tourists is to holiday only in the major resorts - Patong, Karon etc - and not to travel between locations. That, or holiday elsewhere in Thailand where the fares are ten to thirty times lower. Either way, don't use them.

Posted by Doug on November 24, 2010 23:49

Editor Comment:

Doug, Perhaps it's wise to wait until the Governor's scheme is implemented. He said 'Give me three months' and the honorary consuls are showing patience. Just because solutions are not easy doesn't mean there are no answers. Only a North Korean dictator would send in the buses on Phuket right now.

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Sending the buses to Phuket now would mean an alternative to tuk-tuks, free market economy so to say.

I doubt North Korea is seen as a proponent of free market economy.

Sure I know that's not what you meant Ed, just sounded kinda funny to have Kim Jong Il fight for capitalism :o)

Having the buses roll in now would likely lead to violent turf war but it's time to end the extortionist monopoly any which way possible.

If at the end of the 3 months the Governor is asking for we don't have fair and equal price structure compared with the rest of Thailand applied to everyone, someone higher up from BKK needs to intervene.

This problem has persisted for years and despite promises from several Governors, it has only become worse.

I'd say this is the last chance Phuket has or nobody will ever take anything the local authorities say seriously again.

Posted by Chris on November 25, 2010 17:59

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Fine Alan, let's wait and see what happens. But I'm struggling to see what's changed. There were no standard fares and the tuk tuks charged what they like. They introduced standard fares, the tuk tuks ignored them and charged what they like.

Now they're getting rid of the standard fares and....? I can see no reason why anything should change.

There are two details in your report that might suggest attempts to affect supply and demand. By legalizing many of the illegal taxis, presumably we increase the options available to customers. Do taxis have standardized fares? Are they the same as Bangkok or elsewhere? Perhaps you could clear those questions up for me.

The call centre sounds interesting. Presumably it's a service for hotels to avail of; I'm not sure that it has any effect for impromptu trips and carousers on their way home, when people just decide to hail a cab.

Also, I've anecdotally heard that the taxis - legal or not - are intimidated/threatened by the tuk tuk drivers, so I'm not sure legalization has any effect there.

As you say Alan, let's see what happens. I just can't see anything that makes the slightest difference to tuk tuk fares. Dropping the standardized fares just acknowledges that no one keeps to them and saves authorities having to deal with a steady stream of complaints from tourists that they've been charged over the odds.

Posted by Doug on November 25, 2010 22:29

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What we need is not "gimme three months", but "here's the plan...".

How about this for a plan? 1) Install fare meters in tuktuks. 2) Start a 24-hour bus service RUN BY OFF-DUTY COPS between Kata and Kamala. 3) Get rid of 2/3 of all tuktuk drivers.

What do you do with all the tuktuk drivers? Turn them into bus drivers... for the government, for hotel-airport runs sponsored by the hotels, for safari tour operations. Start bus routes that are FREE for tourists-- the fare is instead paid per-head by the destinations, such as Splash Park, Central Festival, and other remote-ish tourist attractions. I've seen these free tourist buses -- even taxis shuttling customers for free to DFS, using "discount coupons" to label where the kickback goes for each baht the tourist spends in the destination -- on Guam, on Hawaii, and in Australia. I've seen the free airport shuttles used in any number of tourist locations, especially by remote hotels.
...And that's just a short list of the DRIVING jobs. How about hiring a few roadside cleanliness crews, so tourists dont wonder why our koff-koff "jungle paradise" looks like the perimeter of a Detroit junkyard.

Most of all, the next time a tuktuk driver asks you, after you disrespect tuktuk drivers, "why don't you want a local to have a good job?" ask him why he thinks waiting around all day for one extortionately high fare is the only job he can do, and what taking that money from a tourist means for the other Thais trying to earn the tourist money.

Side note: to the editor: I'm not quoting tired unreal stories about tourism in Thailand. Please try to understand that the tourists coming to Thailand now are not the ones who've been burned on earlier trips; they're the ones who have less to spend, and whose tour agents' understanding of Phuket has lagged far behind Phuket's meteoritic plunge from tropical paradise to overpriced steaming sewer inundated with rats trying to sell the stink as some kind of cologne. Once tour agents' understanding of Phuket catches up with the reality, and with the advent of reality-based reporting directly from consumers (like on TripAdvisor.com), you won't see wide eyed victims deplaning, complaining, and promising never to come here again. They simply won't come, period.

Posted by Tired of the act on November 26, 2010 20:01

Editor Comment:

Tired of the act, Your suggestions fail to take account of the reality of the situation. There is no instant, overnight solution. The new Governor has had several years of experience on Phuket. He believes answers can be found, but they will only be found in the Thai fashion: by talking to all involved, and by adopting compromises and a sensible strategy that points Phuket in the right direction. The reversal of the one-way system in Patong is a metaphor for public transport on the island. It's too easy for expats to sit back and say ''Get rid of 2/3 of all tuk-tuk drivers'' or ''convert them into bus drivers'' without care or consideration. That's about as likely here as it would be in London or New York. We don't need to turn a problem into a catastrophe, thank you. And take it from me, Phuket doesn't have enough police to spare to devote their free time to your solution that they get involved. Wild ideas will get Phuket nowhere. It's time the expats with all the answers started showing they have the ability to listen, and wait. This is not to say that free bus shuttles have no merit, but advice laden with exaggerated hyperbole (''overpriced steaming sewer inundated with rats trying to sell the stink as some kind of cologne'') is destined for the trash can. On the other hand, tripadvisor will publish it because it's good for their business - even if it's a lie. The evidence is that Phuket remains an appealing and popular tourist attraction, and that its critics are prone to gross exaggeration.


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