Move Forward won all three Member of Parliament seats in Phuket by strong margins in the national election on May 14.
However, despite the Phuket office of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT Phuket) recognising the victories, the vote counts are still technically “unofficial” as the ECT head office in Bangkok has yet to confirm its tally of the votes cast.
Regardless, following the announcement of the unofficial results, all three Move Forward MPs-elect vowed “to do their best” for the island.
Following up on that promise, even before being officially installed as a Phuket MP, Somchart Techathavorncharoen, MP-elect for Constituency 1, yesterday (May 23) paid a visit to Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong to raise key issues involving police.
Also present for the meeting was Phuket City Police Chief Col Pratuang Ponmana.
INTIMIDATION BY TAXI DRIVERS
Mr Somchart in a Facebook post yesterday explained that he raised the issue of Phuket taxi drivers operating with Phuket-issued ‘green’ licence plates verbally abusing fully legal taxi drivers using legally approved taxi apps to pick up customers.
The main concern was ongoing conflicts between taxi drivers and he expressed concern about “mafia behaviour” by prohibiting other taxis from picking up passengers in their “own queue area”, Mr Somchart noted.
The behaviour “destroys the reputation of the province’s tourism [industry]”, he said.
Mr Somchart provided links to reports of a woman taxi app driver recently being accosted as she picked up a young woman passenger in front of Malin Plaza in Patong at night.
The ‘green plate’ taxi driver abused the taxi app driver, Ms Thitima, who explained she was fully legal. She even has the correct official stickers issued by the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) attached to each door to publicly show that her car is registered correctly and operating fully legally as a taxi with permission from the PLTO.
The PLTO has yet to even publicly recognise the incident. Since early March, the PLTO has strongly defended ‘green plate’ taxi cooperative drivers on the island while conducting a sustained campaign against “illegal” taxi app drivers. (See stories here and here.)
The PLTO has even warned tourists that they may be required to stay in the country to attend court if they are caught using an illegal taxi.
The incident at Malin Plaza was just the latest in a series of incidents of violent and aberrant behaviour by Phuket taxi cartel drivers against ‘taxi app’ drivers. In at least one incident, a taxi app driver struck back.
Efforts by senior Phuket officials, including Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, to curtail the ongoing behaviour by Phuket taxi drivers have yet to prove effective.
Phuket Provincial Police Chief Maj Gen Sermphan confirmed that no taxi drivers or co-operatives have any legal right to attempt to enforce exclusive rights to pick up passengers at a taxi rank in a public area, Mr Somchart reported.
Such behaviour “is not supported by the law. And in the past, there has been prosecution under the Criminal Code, Section 309,” Maj Gen Sermphan said.
Mr Somchart, as MP-elect for Phuket Constituency 1, which comprises Phuket Town (Talad Yai and Talad Neua subdistricts), Koh Kaew and Ratsada, 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.
He also urged people to send the same reports to him.
Mr Somchart also raised the problem of corrupt police ‒ or imposters presenting themselves as police officers ‒ extorting, soliciting or defrauding money from people.
Of note, the issue raised included “complaints about being extorted by the police to collect tribute on a monthly basis”.
“The police confirmed that the police department does not extort monthly tribute. So I proposed setting up an ambush to arrest them together so that they would know which agency they came from or if they were just imposters,” Mr Somchart said.
Phuket City Police Chief Col Pratuang agreed with the suggestion, he added.
Other issues discussed yesterday included the prevalence of drugs in local communities, about which Mr Somchart said he had received many complaints from local residents.
Also discussed were leaky police accommodations, Mr Somchart added.
KAMALA LANDSLIDE RISK
Chalermpong Saengdee, MP-elect for Constituency 2, which comprises Wichit, Chalong, Rawai, Karon, Patong and Kamala, yesterday kept his promise to raise the issue of risk of dangerous landslides on the main road through Kamala.
Mr Chalermpong yesterday submitted a formal request to solve the problem of risk of landslides on Kuan Na Yak on the Patong-Kamala Road.
Present in person to receive the formal request was Phuket Highways Office Director Yutthana Pitak.
Mr Yutthana said he was aware of the problem and plans were already underway to resolve the issue, Mr Chalermpong reported.
“We have laid out a solution to this problem. This will be done in the same way as Kuan Sator. [on Kata Hill, between Chalong and Kata],” Mr Yuttana said.
“Right now there is a budget jam. It will take a total of B50 million for the project. Therefore, the project will be included in the fiscal year 2024 [which begins on Oct 1],” he added.
Specifically, two large boulders dangerously beside the road cannot be removed, Mr Yuutana continued.
The boulders are holding the soil in place on the steep slope beside the road, he explained. Removing them will only let the soil collapse onto the road, he said
Mr Chalermpong also discussed other problems, including the recent flooding of the Darasamut Underpass. (See stories here and here.)
The Phuket Highways Office is currently in the process of applying for budget approval to make the necessary repairs to ensure the underpass does not flood with each heavy downpour, Mr Chalermpong said.
In the meantime, a temporary pump provided by the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO) has been installed to help cope with any flooding issues, he said.
Mr Chalermpong also discussed the prospect of improving the street lighting at Kalim Beach. There are only two teams of maintenance personnel that take care of that area, he said.
He will also submit a formal request to open a U-turn in front of Muang Phuket School, located just south of Chalong Circle, to help prevent and reduce accidents, he added.
Kurt | 25 May 2023 - 12:35:23