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Fingerprints being taken at the Phuket City Crime Crisis Centre

Phuket's Coup Crisis Checklist

Thursday, June 5, 2014
PHUKET: A few weeks ago, at a business forum on Phuket, Phuketwan's editor struggled to name a potential leader whose emergence could overcome the eternal Suthep-Thaksin faceoff and save Thailand and Phuket.

Now we have a name: General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

And from what we've seen so far, the coup commander could become the catalyst to overhaul decades of corruption and mismanagement to put Thailand back on the path to real democracy.

Or failing that, honest prosperity at least.

The extraordinary events that took place on Phuket yesterday are an encouraging sign that perhaps the old saying, ''commeth the hour, commeth the man'' actually rings true for Thailand's tormented holiday island.

The army takeover in Bangkok was the unexpected ingredient that gave police chiefs and local authorities the extra courage they needed to move against Phuket's all-powerful tuk-tuk and taxi monopoly.

Demolishing the so-called ''mafia'' and giving Phuket a respectable and efficient taxi service of the kind already found in all rival destinations is now not just the spark of hope in a few hearts but an enticing and very real possibility.

More arrests must follow. This is a once-only opportunity for Phuket to set itself right. And for that we have the man of the hour and the moment to thank, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Nothing would have changed, though, without the happy alignment of key people who also wanted change.

More than once, Phuket Land Transport Office Director Terayoot Prasertphol took on the taxi drivers. Now, with the help of Region 8 Police Commander Major General Panya Mamen and his task force team, some of Khun Terayoot's sensible ideas can be put in place.

The final push to demolish the power of the Phuket taxi ''mafia'' had its beginnings under former Tourism Minister Somsak Pureesrisak, who listened to Europe's ambassadors when they went to him last year as a group and asked him to save Phuket.

And the inspiration for the ambassadors to take up the issue came from Phuket's forgotten international band, the honorary consuls.

It was the honorary consuls who listened to the complaints of tourists and tourism business operators and who fought to have Phuket's problems addressed. Shamefully, their regular three-monthly meetings with Phuket's authorities no longer take place.

Perhaps it's time someone suggested to General Prayuth Chan-ocha that the honorary consuls' meetings were a good idea that needs to be resurrected to show that Phuket listens to its international friends, the people who pay all the bills.

One year ago next week, the European Union ambassadors came as a group to Phuket to see and hear for themselves some of the potential solutions to chronic problems.

With yesterday's dramatic turn of events, it's timely to examine the issues the ambassadors raised in a seven-point memorandum and what has happened in the 12 months since.

Here's the envoys' original summary and our update:

AMBASSADORS and Representatives from 18 European Union member states visited Phuket for meetings on 14 and 15 June, 2013.

They met with the Governor of Phuket Mr Maitrrr Intrusud and local officials, European Union and other Honorary Consuls and tour operators.

Citizens from the European Union make up a large proportion of foreign tourists visiting Phuket. Their per capita spend is high, making an important contribution to the local economy. Tourists need to feel safe and that they are being treated fairly.

In this respect, European Union embassies are keen to see:

..An efficient and fairly priced public transport system in Phuket which is available to foreign tourists and residents alike.

The introduction of a Phuket Airport-Patong bus service has now been followed by a serious attempt to replace Phuket's taxi rip-offs, extortion and intimidation with a modern, efficient taxi service

..An end to intimidatory and violent behavior by an element of tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.

It's hoped that yesterday marked the beginning of the end for the thugs at the wheel and the crooks who empowered them - but it should be added that there are good, honest drivers, too

..Strict enforcement of marine safety standards, including flags on beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim.

A British initiative continues behind the scenes efforts but some tourist speedboats still put to sea in bad weather and the lifeguard system on Phuket's beaches clearly lacks serious commitment and funding, despite a high number of drownings

..Strict enforcement of standards of behavior for public officials, including police and immigration, to ensure that foreign visitors and residents feel protected, treated in a fair way and never at risk of extortion.

All tourists still pay extra to cover the cost of bribes paid to 17 official organisations and agencies that benefit corruptly from back-hand payments. Some aspects of everyday life on Phuket remain notorious for graft

..An end to scams involving hiring of equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes

Passports, real and fake, are still the trigger for many problems associated with vehicle hire. There are better ways, and following the law is the answer. Refusing to hire to unlicenced riders would save lives

..Strict enforcement of road safety regulations

Phuket's force has been boosted by 96 officers and more will arrive when Region 8 headquarters transfers to the island. Road toll figures remain a state secret. Disclosure and a safety awareness campaign are essential

..Promotion of environmental issues, including monitoring of water quality.

Phuket's beaches and reefs will continue to be degraded by so-called ''black'' water until pollution is stopped. A start should be made by regularly releasing water quality figures for all of Phuket's popular west coast beaches

European Union embassies in Bangkok believe that these concerns are shared widely among the diplomatic and wider international community in Thailand.

European Union ambassadors and officials were pleased to have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the governor of Phuket in a constructive manner.

They welcomed his commitment to continue to cooperate with embassies and the national authorities in Bangkok to deal with the challenges.

They in particular welcomed his openness to direct contact from the embassies and his commitment to holding regular meetings with Honorary Consuls in Phuket.

For their part, the European Union embassies will continue to maintain a dialogue with the relevant national authorities such as the Ministry of Tourism, as well as ensuring through their travel advice that their citizens have accurate information and advice available to them.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


General Prayuth Chan-ocha, currently my rising star on my hero's list.
My hope for Thailand and a man wo is able to return Phuket it's honorable name "Pearl of the Andaman Sea".
Please General Prayuth Chan-ocha keep cleaning up the mess and destroy corruption & Greed in Thaland.

Thanks & with respect: Khab Khun Khrab.

Posted by PhuketGreed on June 5, 2014 21:41


Can something be done about all the Taxi Touts standing in the way and shoving signs in all the tourists faces as they enter or exit Jung Ceylon.

Posted by Zig on June 23, 2014 18:59

Saturday April 13, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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