Yet again, police and officials have taken action only after a video of the incident, which occurred in front of the Central Festival mall at 9:50pm on Monday night (Mar 27), was posted online.
The driver seen in the video did not present himself at Wichit Police Station yesterday (Mar 28). Instead, Somphon Nuklai, head of the Andaman Phuket Car Taxi Service Cooperative Limited, which operates at Central Festival Phuket, arrived to “discuss the matter”.
Wichit Police made no mention of whether they requested that the driver involved present himself in person.
The independent driver involved, Nathsirin Wongcharoen, admitted to police that she used the InDriver app to coordinate picking up passengers.
She was fined B1,000 for doing so, Wichit Police Chief Pol Col Chatree Chookaew confirmed.
Only on Monday (Mar 27), did Phuket officials inform local residents that Bolt and InDriver were both still considered illegal in Thailand, as they have not yet been approved by the Department of Land Transport.
Of note, Bolt launched in Thailand in 2020. InDriver launched in Thailand in 2021. Both taxi apps first launched in Bangkok. The Phuket News is not aware of law enforcement taking any action against Bolt and Indriver taxi drivers anywhere else in the country.
Speaking to reporters at Wichit Police Station yesterday, Ms Nathsirin explained that police action came only after she filed a formal complaint at Wichit Police Station to report the driver’s behaviour.
Ms Nathsirin explained that the incident began long before she started recording the video that was later posted online.
“The taxi driver cut in front of my car and drove backward. He was very close already, so I beeped my horn. He then got out of his car, then everyone can see what he says in the video,” Ms Nathsirin said.
“I was very frightened as I knew there was an incident similar to this at Central. During this incident, there was a customer in my car and the man also reproached her. She was also scared and asked why he did so. This is bad for overall Phuket’s image as a tourism destination,” she said.
“I do not want to have any problem because we are doing the same job, but if you intimidate me like this, I would like the police to take maximum legal action to make this case an example,” she added.
Ms Nathsirin admitted that she used the In Driver app to pick up the passenger at Central Festival, but pointed out that her red Toyota Yaris is a properly registered vehicle and is registered with the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) to be used as a taxi with other taxi apps that she uses to pick up passengers.
PLTO Chief Adcha Buachan and a team of officers visited the taxi drivers at Central Festival yesterday afternoon (Mar 28).
“To prevent a fight, we have sent letters to more than 100 taxi drivers that are legal app-based taxis to have a sticker to show that they are registered legally.” Mr Adcha said.
“People who want to operate a taxi must use a registered car [and legally approved apps], and those who are driving taxis legally should also be careful with their behaviour when checking illegal taxis by themselves,” he said.
Mr Adcha said that the PLTO has many channels for reporting illegal taxis, such as the PLTO Facebook page and an official Line group, through which legal taxis can file a complaint when they spot a suspected illegal driver.
“We have issued a letter asking more than 100 illegal taxis to come to the [PLTO] office. There are also about 20 illegal taxis that we have already fined and seized their driver’s licenses. The PLTO and the police from every area are monitoring illegal taxis and suppressing them,” Mr Adcha warned.
Of note, Mr Adcha gave no admonishment of the taxi driver’s behaviour for verbally abusing Ms Nathsirin.
Mr Somphon, head of the Andaman Phuket Car Taxi Service Cooperative Limited, yesterday said he, too, had told all the drivers at the group stationed at Central Festival to only take a photo if they see a suspected illegal taxi driver ‒ and to not get too close to the car.
“To avoid any [future] problems, I told my group not to get too close and only to take a photo because some app-based taxis are looking to incite our anger in order to make a video and put it on social media, making it big news,” Mr Somphon said, accusing illegal taxi drivers of enraging taxi drivers that have the support of the PLTO.
“If we do not do it [keep an eye out for illegal taxis] then who would do it? Police and the PLTO have recently helped organize things about law and that helps us,” he said, answering his own question.
Mr Somphon added that he and the group of taxi drivers at Central Festival do not prohibit taxis from outside from picking up passengers, “as long as they are legal” ‒ a perspective he has touted even in defence of his taxi group’s behaviour at the mall last Friday (Mar 24), when they accused a fully legal taxi of being illegal.
“Everyone can work, but it needs to be legal. We do not say who can and cannot drive their taxis at Central Phuket, but they have to follow the law and the regulation of PLTO,” Mr Sophon said.
“Central gives the opportunity for everyone that is legal to pick up customers here, even the ‘black plate’ [taxis] that are legally registered with applications,” he said.
Mr Sophon’s use of the term ‘black plate’ taxis stems from years past when it was used to describe people who illegally used private cars as taxis.
Today, the term is now being used as a form of derision and is also being used to describe fully legal taxi drivers that are not members of Phuket’s powerful taxi co-operative cartels.
Among those to use the term is Mr Adcha himself, as Chief of the PLTO.
Of note, Mr Sophon yesterday specifically made no apology for the driver’s behaviour in the incident involving Ms Nathsirin.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub
Kurt | 31 March 2023 - 10:58:02