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A Phuket port tuk-tuk takes five crew to Patong today for 2000 baht

Phuket's US Ships Hit by Bus 'Blockade' at Phuket Deep Sea Port

Thursday, May 30, 2013
PHUKET: Taxi drivers on Phuket today denied reports they had blockaded two US Navy vessels in a dispute over shuttle bus pay.

However, the dispute over the shuttle buses that began in Patong last night has meant vans and buses being prevented from picking up crews from the nuclear powered USS Nimitz and the accompanying warship USS Princeton.

About 800 sailors and air crew were milling at the docks today, wondering what to do. About 5000 US service men and women are on Phuket to enjoy shore leave R&R - if they can.

Some of them were to be involved in three community service projects today. These are likely to have to be cancelled because of the standoff, organisers said.

Royal Thai Navy sailors who were to participate in the community projects were also stuck at the dock.

Local taxi drivers are taking advantage of the dispute, ferrying US crew-members across the island to Patong and other destinations at hugely inflated fares.

Phuketwan heard one tuk-tuk driver negotiate to carry five passengers to Patong at 400 baht each, a 2000 baht windfall ride for the driver.

The dispute began in Patong last night when the company that runs the shuttle bus service between the deep sea port and Patong ordered drivers to stop.

The company claimed that the Glenn Marine Group, which provides services when US warships are in South East Asian ports, had not paid them. The debt is said to amount to eight million baht, going back to October.

Glenn Marine says the company has been paid.

With hundreds of crew left to find their own way back to the ships from Patong last night, the dispute continued today at the deep sea port.

Phuketwan has been told that 20 police in combat gear were transferred from Phuket City to Patong in case the situation deteriorated last night.

''With hundreds of unhappy people standing around, things could certainly have gotten worse,'' one source said. ''The tuk-tuks were charging 4000, 5000, 6000 baht to take people back to the port.''

Colonel Jirapat Pochanapan, the Superintendent of Kathu Police Station, which oversees Patong, contacted a woman who represents Glenn Marine on Phuket.

She failed to turn up in Patong to deal with the situation, Phuketwan's source said. Some of the bus drivers responded to the colonel's request to take the US crews back to the port.

The owner of the bus company said today that the shuttle buses did eventually transport US crews back to the ships last night - at 2am.

Owner Ali Kumbaan, said: ''This is very bad for Phuket. We have still had no response.'' He added that 34 buses were involved in the shuttle service.

Phuket police were at the port to prevent trouble. It's believed the bus drivers are not letting other buses or vans pick up the US service men and women.

The leader of the local Phuket taxi group said they were not a party to the dispute. ''It's nothing to do with us,'' said Narong Kumbaan, who controls about 160 taxis. ''This is not our fault.''

He said that although the crews were looking for transport, the port controllers were still only allowing 25 taxis to the docks area at any time.

Yesterday he denied reports that drivers had asked for $200 to drive passengers on a cruise ship to Patong, a distance of about 20 kilometres.

Local taxi drivers blockaded the deep sea port on a US warship visit in 2011 and won the right to have access to a greater proportion of arriving passengers.

US authorities have always insisted that their crews have the right to alternative means of transport in the buses. But at the time that pronouncement was made, a dispute over the buses was not anticipated.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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All these taxi driver need a lesson of how to play along with others, it is disgraceful behaviour by these people.

Posted by rtees on May 30, 2013 12:38

Editor Comment:

As the article says, the current dispute has nothing to do with the taxi drivers.

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so the taxis are ok? charging 2000 thb for soldiers to patong? nice people...

Posted by mike on May 30, 2013 12:55

Editor Comment:

They're sailors, not soldiers. And it's a tuk-tuk, not a taxi. The fare is 400 baht each. Why bother reading the article if your intention is to make something up?

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Regardless of how many passengers 2000 bht for a 20km ride is daylight robbery. I travelled from KL yesterday my taxi for a 50km journey to the airport was 1000 bht then at Bangkok I got another taxi to Korat a journey of 250 km for 2800 bht that's including the 300 bht tip so a taxi in Bangkok works on 10 bht per km a tuk tuk works on 100 bht per km. Welcome to Phuket.

Posted by neil a on May 30, 2013 15:22

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Does Col Jirapat have his gun back? Sounds like he might need it.

Posted by juswunderin on May 30, 2013 15:23

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Makes me want to cry seeing my beautiful island getting rapidly ruined, if its not the environment then it's the tuk tuks or taxis or immigration, the list is long and getting longer everyday. Phuket used to be a refreshing change from what Pattaya became, now is worse.

Posted by Simon on May 30, 2013 20:02

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the tuk tuks take advantage of a situation well blow me down with a feather

Posted by slickmelb on May 31, 2013 05:15

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This installment of the Phuket ground travel saga can be seen as a positive event. It may be the event needed to get some action. This is a tremendous loss of face to the local administration, the governor's office and to the image of Thailand. Gouging combined with ineptitude. Glen Marine has to make a clear statement or else it may see the loss of future business, assuming it does not benefit from the Phuket monopoly syndrome. I honestly think some good will come of this.

Posted by Ryan on May 31, 2013 07:20

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say goodbye to future R&R by the US Navy.

Posted by obda on May 31, 2013 09:45


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