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Only Government intervention can restore fare fairness on Phuket

Planet Phuket: Government Action is Needed Now

Sunday, January 10, 2010
Planet Phuket: News and Opinion

Introducing a new weekly column about Phuket

HOW MANY Phukets are there? This week alone, we've heard mostly about two of them: the Superelite Phuket and the Punch-in-your-face Phuket.

Are they separate planets, or is there any real connection still between the two?

Supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell have been enjoying a tropical island holiday break, from all reports, indulging in synchronised swimming.

Phuket and its satellite islands have also become the Prime Minister's preference for quick family getaways, which is good to hear.

On the other hand, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, the extremely rich husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, may no longer be enjoying his New Year break, having been spotted frolicking at Freedom beach with his wife's younger look-alike.

Ah, sprawling, sensual, spicy Phuket . . .

So often we hear of people dying in the wrong bed or in the company of the wrong person. Next to tourism, infidelity is without a doubt Phuket's biggest industry.

Other passions are also no longer as secret, and definitely not as likely to bring a smile to anyone's face. Incidents of violence between tuk-tuk drivers and tourists highlight the need for reforms on Phuket.

And reform needs to come quickly because there's a third Planet Phuket now, Internet Phuket.

Once it was possible for officials to pretend that all is wonderful and always will be on the holiday island. These days, that pretense is at an end.

The internet provides absolute transparency. If something untoward happens, the world gets to hear about it. And the internet is a powerful force for change.

Anyone out there who hasn't heard of JJ and the jet-ski scams, and of the world-first insurance scheme that is designed to tame the extortionists and rip-off merchants?

One problem apparently solved, a few more yet to go . . .

While Phuket will continue to be a playground for the elite, and for the multi-million dollar weddings that unite rich Indian families, and for billionaires from Russia, Asia, Australia and Europe, more change has to come, and quickly.

Once upon a time, Phuket was able to rely on its natural beauty alone. The glorious beaches and the coral reefs, and the good value, brought tourists by the planeload.

These days, the warts are showing. As Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob said in some surprise when he first arrived on the island in 2009: ''Phuket has many problems.''

He has done his best to fix a couple.

These days, though, because of Internet Phuket, the whole world is aware of Phuket's remaining problems, and watching to see what happens.

Phuket has missed one previous ideal opportunity for reform. A fresh start could have been made after the 2004 tsunami. Nothing happened.

Instead, greed took the driver's seat.

The result: Phuket still has its great beaches and coral reefs, but it's no longer good value. And thanks to the internet, people know what to expect.

Who wants to come to any holiday destination, knowing they will be ripped off outrageously every time they attempt to travel from point A to point B?

Back in 2005, after the tsunami, the government of Thaksin Shinawatra remained in power, and there was no way his ruling Thai Rak Thai party would countenance spending money on Phuket, a long-standing fortress for the opposition Democrat Party.

Now change has come, and more of it is needed on Phuket. The time is right. The world is watching.

Unlike some angry expat residents, Phuketwan is not advocating bans or boycotts. Phuket's Thai residents have been boycotting tuk-tuks for years because of the ridiculous fares, and nothing has changed.

Simply put, the Government now needs to prevent more tourists ending up with broken arms and busted faces.

It needs to give the island something it has required for decades: a public transport strategy.

It needs to find a sensible solution that does not suddenly throw 1000 tuk-tuk and taxi drivers out of work, but one that makes Phuket good value again.

Phuket's future as a tourist destination for the superrich is assured. But the rest of the world would like to be able to afford to keep on coming here, too.
Phuketwan's Phuket News, Analysis

Phuket Economy to Suffer Unless Government Acts
Opinion/Analysis: Beset by continuing claims of thuggery, ripoffs and extortion, Phuket must seek the intervention of Thailand's government to equip the island for success in the 21st century
Phuket Economy to Suffer Unless Government Acts

Phuket Has Too Many Tuk-Tuks, says Police Chief
Exclusive A tourist who says he was bashed by a tuktuk driver tells his version of events, and Patong's police chief speaks out, saying there are too many tuktuks on Phuket.
Phuket Has Too Many Tuk-Tuks, says Police Chief

Phuket's Muck-Rakers Battle for Island's Future
Children's Day Photo Special What does the future hold for Phuket's children? A continuing fight to save the island from its own pollution, which seems to be growing at an extraordinary rate now.
Phuket's Muck-Rakers Battle for Island's Future

Let Phuket Rip: No Action As Drownings Mount
Latest Thai law is hampering the provision of a lifeguard system at Phuket's most popular beaches, prompting the likelihood that more needless drownings are inevitable in 2010.
Let Phuket Rip: No Action As Drownings Mount

Will This Photo Give Phuket Real Public Transport?
Defining Moment The fare was 150 baht for a one minute trip. The tourist objected. The tuk tuk driver would not take 100 baht. He lashed out. But the outcome may be positive: the start of Phuket reform.
Will This Photo Give Phuket Real Public Transport?

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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A good, well-balanced assessment of the current issues affecting Phuket in my opinion. It will be interesting to re-read this editorial in Jan 2011 and try to spot the improvements.

Posted by Mister Ree on January 10, 2010 12:16

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Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the Tuk tuk drivers are victims as well as bullies. They come under the control of gangs that demand money from them, and if they don't earn the money to pay, they get consequences....

I live on the south of the Island. With 1000 Tuk Tuks on Phuket, I should be able to go to the nearest main Road, and flag down a Tuk Tuk and go to my desired destination, at a reasonable price, as you can in Bangkok with metered taxis, but I can't.

All the Tuk Tuks are parked up in various popular locations, spending most of the day waiting for a fare that will pay 10 times the reasonable rate, instead of driving around looking for fares. They have to charge the price for there and back, because they can't pick up a fare outside of their "queues".

They could and should provide a good and needed service, if they are allowed to pick up fares, drop them off and immediately find another fare, rather than having to go back to their own "territory". They might work harder, but will probably make more money, and the tourists and locals will be happy to have a good transport system.

Unfortunately, the greed of the few is killing the golden goose.

Posted by Anonymous on January 10, 2010 12:48

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Before I say ''dream on'' to this latest article, I think that the powers that be, in Phuket and Bangkok, need to solve the lack of public transport in Phuket very quickly! Phuket is getting a very bad reputation from all over the world!

Posted by elizabeth on January 11, 2010 18:36


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