The 70 are involved in eight joint “mafia taxi” cases, and face charges that include cheating tourists, criminal association, and illegal detention of other people.
They are from the 108 arrested at the beginning of the army-backed police crackdown on mafia taxi activities on June 4. Most have already denied guilt.
A taxi driver from Kamala area who does not want to be name said in a depressed voice, “These charges are just too much. I have no idea why this has happened to me.
“It would be better if the police had discussed things with us before deciding to bring charges.”
Another Kamala taxi driver said, “I don’t know why I am facing these terrible charges.”
A third, from Kata, said, “We’ve been in this line of work for a long time. If we cannot make a living by driving a taxi, what can we do? The police just don’t understand our way of life.”
Court officials would not comment on the cases but it is understood that today’s hearings were purely to set dates for the cases to be heard.
Some taxi drivers are alleged to have occupied space in front of hotels, refusing to allow guests to be driven anywhere except in the gang’s taxis, or to have extorted money from tour companies in return for allowing them to pick up clients.
There have been allegations on many occasions that taxi drivers have physically pulled tourists from minibuses sent to collect them, and have assaulted drivers or damaged vehicles sent by tour companies.