PHUKET: Violence has broken up negotiations designed to restore peace among taxi drivers at Phuket International Airport, a protest heard today.
The latest beating took place in daylight with newly arrived tourists at Phuket airport looking on, said the victim, Manoch Themsan, 57.
Taxi drivers were aiming to make their unhappiness known today as they sought to present a petition to Phuket's governor at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket City. However, none of Phuket's leaders could be found.
''The third driver was beaten up just three days ago,'' one driver representative told Phuketwan as taxis began filling parking spaces at Provincial Hall.
''The police at Tachatchai were informed about all three beatings but nothing has been done.''
Conflicts have pitted the Mook Andaman group of ''black'' illegal drivers against the Phuket airport's two entrenched taxi and limousine groups.
Mook Andaman sought to add 250 drivers in a third group but officials ruled that the best they could do was to add 25 drivers to each of the existing groups.
Talks aimed at achieving this compromise recently broke down.
The Mook Andaman drivers, who say they are locals just looking for local jobs, are sometimes barred from entering the airport.
Traditional village fiefdoms have given Phuket a taxi system based on patronage and the highest fares in the Thailand.
Attempts to introduce a low-cost hop-on hop-off bus service from the airport to west coast holiday destinations have so far proved fruitless.
9.40am Protesting drivers begin arriving at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket City.
9.45am Protest leaders tell media that three drivers have been beaten up and they wish to protest to Phuket's Governor.
10.05am Drivers are told that the Governor is elsewhere, dropping EM balls into a polluted Phuket City canal, dealing with a dengue fever campaign promotion then catching a flight to Penang.
10.25am No Phuket official has come to talk to the drivers, even though the Governor's Office was forewarned they were coming.
10.45am Protest leaders say they are calling their families to join them at Provincial Hall to await a proper response from Phuket officials.
11.30am The protesting drivers decide to find the Phuket Governor and lodge their protest with him, wherever he is.
1.30pm The taxi drivers catch up with Phuket's Governor. He tells them the issue has been delegated to a Vice Govrnor, but as he is flying out today to Penang he will talk to the Phuket airport GM on the way.