“Is it the normal rate. I thought I was in a taxi in a foreign country,” the woman wrote in a social media post on Dec 7.
The post went viral and prompted Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew last Friday (Dec 11) to order local transport officials to respond.
Praprai Sounkul, Chief Policy Specialist at the Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO), told The Phuket News today (Dec 15) that a team of officers was assembled after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew ordered an investigation into the incident.
The officers located the driver near the Limelight shopping mall in Phuket Town on Dec 8, Mr Prapai explained.
The taxi involved was “green plate” taxi, which does not use a meter, he added.
Under Land Transport regulations, such taxis are called “chartered taxis”, for which only maximum fares have been set.
Mr Prapai declined to name the taxi driver involved, but confirmed that the driver was a man, about 60 years old.
“The officers asked the taxi driver to come to our office to discuss the incident, and I spoke with him directly,” Mr Prapai said.
“The driver confirmed that on Dec 7 at about 2pm he was called by a motorbike taxi driver informing him that three passsengers from Krabi wanted to take a taxi from the Limelight mall.
“The fare agreed was B200 to take the three passengers and their luggage to a hotel in Phuket Town, a distance of not more than one kilometre,” Mr Prapai explained.
“He took them to the hotel and unloaded their bags for them and left. The driver said there was no argument and no bad words spoken,” he said.
The PLTO officers contacted the person who posted the complaint that went viral to ask further about the incident, Mr Prapai added.
“The woman said she posted her comments because she felt it was too expensive for the distance,” Mr Prapai said.
“She admitted that her post was more out of emotion, and that she did not intend to shame the taxi driver and did not want to harm Phuket’s reputation,” he added.
“She also pointed out that she posted her comments only on her own Facebook page. She did not post it anywhere else. Other people did that,” he said.
“There will be no action taken against the taxi driver. The fare was negotiated and agreed before the passengers entered the vehicle, and the fare charged did not break the law,” Mr Prapai confirmed.
Regardless, the post struck many raw nerves about the high fares charged by Phuket taxi drivers, often openly called ripoffs, and raised the ugly memory of two Australian tourists filing complaints with the Karon Police in July last year after a passenger van driver charged them B3,000 to take them from Phuket airport to a hotel in Kata, about 50km away.
Speaking to the press last Friday, PLTO Chief Banyat Kantha urged travellers to use the mobile app named “Hello Phuket” to look for taxis and public transport.
Phuket Provincial Police launched the “Hello Phuket” mobile application in August, with 300 taxis joining. It was created to standardise the fares and provide safe public transport services in Phuket.
Mr Banyat said that public transport fees in Phuket should be cheaper during the COVID-19 pandemic because local operators agreed to give a 20% discount to travellers.