''The rates on Phuket are much higher than in the capital so experienced taxi drivers who have to make do with low Bangkok rates are looking at coming to Phuket,'' said transport specialist Jaturong Keawkasi said.
He told reporters at the Phuket governor's monthly meeting with the media that the only reason why the Bangkok drivers had not moved to Phuket was out of concern about their safety.
The tropical holiday island's taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia'' has come under pressure to change in the past few weeks, with more than 100 drivers arrested and charged with intimidation and extortion and officials at Phuket's Karon council being accused of assisting them.
At yesterday's meeting, Royal Thai Navy Captain Petcharat Tienjan said that all 10 police station superintendents on the island had been ordered to take adequate means to protect meter cab drivers, who are now legally entitled to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere.
The move is seen as a critical breakthrough in breaking the hold of the taki ''mafia'' and giving Phuket a more efficient service that should also become lower in cost over time.
From August 9-12, the Phuket Land Transport Department will be holding a taxi driver fair at its premises in Saphan Hin.
''For a maximum of 6000 baht to 7000 baht, a would-be driver will be provided with everything necessary to become a driver,'' Khun Jaturong said. ''He can be on the road the following day, picking up passengers.''
There's even provision for people to take a taxi driver's licence test quickly, he said.