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Phuket Opinion: Patong taxi mafia ills spill out from the shadows

The murder of Patong Tuk-Tuk Club President Sakol Srisompoch on Tuesday (Oct 25) has re-opened the festering sore that is the island’s so-called “public transport” industry. Kathu Police were quick to speculate that the murder was a result of a “personal dispute” and are no doubt already wrapping up their “investigation” which is unlikely to yield a suspect.


The Phuket News

Sunday 30 October 2016, 11:00AM


Sakol Srisompoch talks with Jamroen Tipayapongtada, who was Vice Governor at the time but returned as Phuket Governor last year, about the the growing number of illegal ‘black plate’ tuk-tuks at Provincial Hall in 2013.

As head of the notorious “Club” Mr Sakol led a very public stand-off with local police when tuk-tuks blockaded all roads in and out of Patong in July 2014, accusing police of unfair treatment. During the blockade Mr Sakol’s group demanded and received the removal of then-Kathu Police Chief Col Jirapat Pochanapan

Of note, Col Jirapat last year was transferred to the post as Chief of the Phang Nga Muang Police (see here), who are now trying to stave off with silence enquiries about one of their own police officers injuring six people in a drunk driving hit and run case. (See stories here and here.)

The cause of the tension during the blockade in 2013 was an alleged rise of the number of illegal “black plate” (non-commercially registered) tuk-tuks in Patong, to which police were declining to take any action against.

Mr Sakol and his cadre of “yellow plate” (commercially licensed) tuk-tuk drivers took exception to this and demanded that police enforce the drivers’ legal monopoly. The implication being that police were acting in league with – or at the very least accepting payments from – the black-plate tuk-tuk owners, to allow them to operate with impunity.

With the murder of Mr Sakol it seems that the power has shifted within the island’s taxi mafia and no doubt a new leading figure will emerge when the dust settles on this latest violence. The murder will also do little to convince the public that anything has changed for the better.

This is despite the urging of no less a figure than Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who when visiting Phuket last month (Sep 17) urged local authorities to fix the taxi mafia problem.

Local police should hold PM Prayut to his call and ask for national military help in solving Phuket’s taxi mafia problem. As was demonstrated in the recent public transport crackdown in July local police, with military help, can enforce the laws regarding public transport drivers and their vehicles effectively.

In just three days, 573 Phuket public transport drivers were caught breaking the law, netting the government more than B7 million baht in fines.

Instead of sporadic crackdowns, the laws should be enforced full-time and before long there wouldn’t be enough crooked tuk-tuk drivers left on the road to form a football team, let alone a mafia.

 

 

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samantha | 01 November 2016 - 05:28:40

"wrapping up their “investigation” which is unlikely to yield a suspect". 

The cops have the suspect in custody and know who the others are so it's only a matter of time before they are in the slammer as well.

The Phuket News

Hotgem | 31 October 2016 - 12:07:10

7 MB divided by 573 "TukTuks is about 12,000 per vehicle. Less than they make in 1 "good" stop at a Tourist venue. Not a plausible fine to deter them. Maybe a dress code would help!!

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Fritz Pinguin | 30 October 2016 - 19:44:11

What about these yellow-roof TukTuks in Karon? Shouldn't they be on service within Phuket's City Limits only? For a price of 30 Baht per ride? They would be good for a fine, too.

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CaptainJack69 | 30 October 2016 - 14:47:35

So many problems all caused by the same people.

The route of all these problems is simply that taxi drivers are allowed to do what ever they want.

Back in 2014, for a brief period, they were all genuinely worried as the army made them all get registered and told them that the registrations would be limited in number. They all panicked to tried to get their paperwork submitted in time. But we just ended up with every single vehicle getting registered, no matter how old, poorly maintained or under-powered they were.

Which raises the question how did they think "black plate" taxi's were operating at all, since even though most of their own vehicles weren't registered they already occupied every square inch of available space in Patong.

The article is correct. The authorities have it in their ability to get these people under control. For some reason they don't seem to want to.

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malczx7r | 30 October 2016 - 11:07:32

What amazes me is the comment "with military help, can enforce the laws" it just confirms everyone's suspicion of the police that they are either incapable or unwilling to enforce the law for which they are paid to do. I would say "Unbelievable" but as a long time resident now, anything is believable!

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