Pol Lt Col Somboon Sarasit, the commander of the Bureau of Special Crime Section 3, said, “We are still getting complaints about black taxi drivers acting as influential persons. Recently, two cases were reported to DSI for us to investigate.”
The first, he said, involved an Australian visitor staying at the new Novotel on Kamala Beach. The hotel package the visitor bought included a limousine with driver.
“He called the driver, but the driver was not allowed into the hotel because black taxi drivers blocked the way, and threatened to hurt the driver if he disobeyed them.
“The tourist was angry, and complained to the DSI.”
He added “After we received his complaints, we went to [the Novotel] and found that black taxi drivers were indeed blocking the way.”
The second case, he said, was on Friday (September 27) and involved a two-hour blockade at Serenity Resort and Residencesin Rawai. “It involved a Norwegian-Thai couple. This case has already been reported to Chalong police.”
He explained that a limousine came to pick up the couple from the resort. The limousine drove into the resort but when the driver tried to drive out again with the guests, the black taxi drivers blocked the way by pulling down the hotel’s security barrier.
The blockade leaders told the couple that they must use the black taxi service or nothing – that they would not be allowed out of the resort otherwise.
“The hotel staff and the victims tried to negotiate, but it was useless. It took about two hours until they could get out of the hotel. In this case we have a video recording as evidence.”
Pol Lt Col Somboon later showed The Phuket News screenshots of the black taxi drivers and the barrier, taken from the video.
A furious Vice-Governor Jamroen Thipphayapongtada ordered police to take care of the cases “very urgently”. He stressed that the police should impose the maximum fines in order to deter other black taxi drivers from “repeating the same pattern”.
“From now on the black taxi drivers must not be allowed to operate their business as they like. The Provincial government will issue an official announcement mandating the setting up of taxi ranks, as part of the enforcement of public peace and security in Phuket.
“Whoever wants to set up a taxi rank must be approved by the local district office and the police.
“Each operator will be assessed according to a code of conduct, which will be drawn up by the provincial government.”
V/Gov Jamroen assigned Provincial Land Transport Department (PLTD) officers and crime prevention officers to work together to prosecute all black taxi drivers.
“Provincial Land Transport officers and prevention officers – you must keep looking and catching them. Keep doing it. Don’t stop until I tell you, because if we don’t keep doing it constantly, then they will [continue to] resist us.”
Theerayut Prasertpol, the PLTD’s director, explained, “So far, 118 former black taxi drivers have been registered [as greenplate drivers] while another 200 are waiting for resolution of financial matters. Within three months we expect that we will be able to complete registration of about 70 to 80 per cent of the black taxis.”
Col Somboon said, “The DSI has worked with the PLTD to set up checkpoints to arrest black taxi drivers, and has already arrested some.
“We are now in the process of applying for more manpower [for the PLTD] to work with us this October.
“As for the black taxi drivers who made trouble at these two hotels, we have already issued summonses to them. We will also investigate to find the people behind all these black taxi drivers.
“We will follow the same procedure as we did in the Central [Festival Phuket] taxi case. The people behind them were arrested.
V/Gov Jamroen added, “I’m not going to let go of [the black taxis]. These cases drive me crazy.”