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.