The incident occurred yesterday evening around 8:35pm when the driver of the Grab taxi, Thanawanta Wannaphat, dropped off customers at the Tri Trang Beach Hotel on Muen Ngoen Road, Tri Trang Beach, Patong.
Mr Thanawanta had collected his customers from Bangla Road in Patong around 8:20pm after they had used the Grab app to reserve his services, he told police in an official complaint lodged after the incident.
Outisde the hotel Mr Thanawanta said he noticed a queue of local taxi providers parked who shouted to him to question what he was doing, to which he replied he was dropping some customers off.
After they customers alighted at the hotel, Mr Thanawanta said an unidentified man knocked on his driver side window and asked him about the customers. Mr Thanawanta confirmed to the man that he had just dropped the passengers off and was not waiting for any more.
Immediately after leaving the venue Mr Thanawanta noticed trouble with the rear right wheel of his car and, after stopping to inspect, realised that there were three sharp objects that looked like nails or tacks that had punctured the tyre.
Mr Thanawanta immediately called the Patong Police who sent two officers to the scene and advised him to lodge an official complaint at Patong Police station, which he did with a Pol. Lt. Col. Chanan Mekchai around 10pm. Mr Thanawanta also lodged an official complaint with the hotel management regarding the incident.
Although he had no direct proof, Mr Thanawanta was convinced this foul play was the work of the taxi drivers that were waiting in a line with their vehicles outside the Tri Trang Beach Hotel when he dropped his customers off and that the sharp objects had purposefully been positioned under his rear tyre to cause damage while the unidentified man had distracted him to allow this to happen.
Mr Thanawanta disclosed that he had previously refused to pick up customers from the Tri Trang Beach Hotel after being warned about the conduct of local taxi drivers in the area but thought on this occasion, as he was only dropping off customers and not collecting them, it would not be any problem.
Police confirmed that Mr Thanawanta’s vehicle is correctly registered with the Grab and Hello Phuket transport applications and was legally taxed and that investigations would continue.
After taking his car to be repaired Mr Thanawanta imparted a cautionary plea to local authorities: “I would like to leave a message to the government officials because now the situation is starting to get violent. Please help to fix the problem. Let there be no violent conflicts,” he said.
The incident came after Move Forward Party MP-elect for Constituency 1 in Phuket Somchart Techathavorncharoen vowed to tackle the issue of taxi disputes, which have been ongoing for many months and have seen several flash incidents that officials fear will tarnish the image of Phuket.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday Mr Somchart expressed concern about “mafia behaviour” by prohibiting other taxis from picking up passengers in their “own queue area”, behaviour which “destroys the reputation of the province’s tourism [industry]”.
Mr Somchart urged any people who experienced such problems with taxi drivers in his constituency to take audio and video clips of the offending taxi driver and report the incident to Phuket City Police Station as well as him directly.
JohnC | 26 May 2023 - 08:30:54