PIC, operated under the Phuket office of the Ministry of Interior, issued the reminder via a notice listing the ride-sharing apps approved by the Department of Land Transport.
Listed as “Applications Certificated by Department of Land Transport” were Hello Phuket, Grab, Robinhood, bonku, CABB and the AirAsia Super App.
Bolt and InDriver, both popular in Phuket, were the only apps listed under “Applications Uncertificated by Department of Land Transport”.
Of note, Bolt launched in Thailand in 2020.
The notice today follows nearly two months of a crackdown on illegal taxi drivers by the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO). However, since the crackdown was launched on Feb 3, following a protest by ‘green licence plate’ Phuket taxi drivers, the PLTO has not mentioned specifically which ‘taxi apps’ were legal or illegal.
The PLTO’s repeated vague mantra throughout the campaign has been to crackdown on “illegal taxi drivers”, no matter what the illegality may be. Initially, that included taxis not registered in Phuket, though by Feb 14 the PLTO itself admitted ‒ only by posting the actual laws ‒ that taxis from Bangkok, Songkhla and other selected areas were allowed to operate as taxis outside their province of registration.
Today, PLTO Chief Adcha Buachan repeated that mantra when questioned whether any action were to be taken regarding Phuket taxi drivers interfering with and preventing a Bangkok-registered taxi from legally picking up passengers at Central Festival Phuket on Friday (Mar 24).
Mr Adcha told The Phuket News today, just as already widely reported, that PLTO officers had brought the “parties involved” together to discuss the incident and that the situation had been resolved.
Mr Adcha did confirm that the PLTO officers had visited the taxi drivers stationed at the popular Central Festival shopping mall to explain that legally registered taxis from Bangkok were fully permitted by law to pick up passengers in Phuket and in other provinces.
“This is the information that the taxis at Central [Phuket] misunderstood, but we have already visited them and clarified the law to them,” he said.
Mr Adcha made no mention of any action against the Phuket taxi drivers at Central Festival for illegally preventing a fully legal taxi driver from freely conducting business, as empowered by law ‒ despite the PLTO itself for two months issuing fines and suspending the driver’s licence of non-Phuket taxi drivers deemed to be ‘illegal’.
Mr Adcha, now four days after the Central Festival incident and after his own officers have intervened in the matter, today said he was still unsure whether the driver of the Bangkok-registered taxi at Central Festival was working using an illegal application.
Regardless, he was adamant his officers were to pursue the matter. “The PLTO and Wichit Police will call both parties to investigate whether the Bangkok taxi used a taxi application or not,” Mr Adcha said.
“He [the Bangkok taxi driver] said that he does not work in Phuket, but he had driven to Phuket to stay at his wife’s house and he had some spare time so he accepted customers here,” Mr Adcha said.
What relevance the Bangkok taxi driver’s reason for coming to Phuket had on whether or not he is legally allowed to operate on the island was not explained.
“We have not seized anyone’s driver’s licence over the incident yet. However, we are gathering information and if anyone is found guilty, they will be punished,” Mr Adcha added.
Management at Central Festival have yet to issue a public statement about the taxi driver incident on Friday, but The Phuket News was told today that the operators of the mall were taking the issue seriously.
“The taxi operators stationed at Central Festival do not rent the space for their business. Central lets them stay there for free under the condition that they will take care of the tourists. It is what Central wanted to do for the community.
“However, after the incident, Central has already given them a warning and told them that if they behave this way, they cannot stay on Central’s premises,” said one representative.
Asked specifically whether any legal taxis were allowed to pick up passengers from Central Festival, the representative said, “Yes, as long as the taxi is legal and matches Phuket regulations. Central has already emphasised this to the taxis in our areas about this.”
APP-TAXIS NOW ‘BLACK’
PLTO officers will be deployed to what Mr Adcha called ‘risk areas’ to monitor what he called ‘black taxis’ - a derisive moniker used for years by legally registered Phuket taxi drivers to describe people using private cars to work illegally as taxi drivers.
“The inspectors will make an understanding with the local taxis about the law that metered taxis can pick up customers in the local area,” Mr Adcha said.
For the app-based taxis ‒ which Mr Adcha today called ‘black plate taxis’, regardless of whether the taxi drivers were working legally or illegally ‒ he said that the PLTO now had a large stock of new stickers to attach to app-based taxis “to show that they are legally registered taxis operating via applications”.
“The PLTO already had some stickers made, but we made bigger ones to make it clearer to see and we have already called the app-based taxi drivers to change to the new stickers,” he said.
Nasa12 | 28 March 2023 - 18:14:45