The project aims to “prevent and suppress individuals or groups of people operating in the manner of exploiting tourists or users at Phuket Airport”, Mr Manat said.
The campaign involves the support of 10 law-enforcement and government agencies, including Sakhu Police, Tourist Police Region 3, Phuket Airport Immigration, Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO), Thalang District Office, Mai Khao Tambon Administrative Organisation (OrBorTor, Sakhu OrBorTor and Airports of Thailand (AoT), which operates Phuket airport.
“The project aims to ensure the safety of, and boost confidence among, tourists and other public taxi service users, and to reduce accidents within the area of Phuket Airport. The campaign also aims to promote tourism to Phuket, create a good image for Phuket airport and Phuket province, and to deter drivers from being involved with drugs,” Mr Manat said.
“Currently, there is a large number of both Thai and foreign tourists coming to use the service at Phuket airport. It is expected that throughout the year 2023, more tourists will travel,” he said.
“In order to maintain safety and to build confidence for tourists, Phuket airport therefore has organised this project. It is good that various agencies have cooperated in random drug urine testing of drivers who come to serve tourists at Phuket airport to ensure safety and confidence in the use of taxi services, including preventing and deterring persons in the manner of seeking benefits from tourists or service users at Phuket airport,” Mr Manat concluded.
The ‘White Airport’ project was initially launched in July last year, with taxi drivers to test negative having a sticker of a white star attached to the windscreen of their car.
However, so far no drivers have been reported as testing positive for drugs through the ’White Airport’ campaign, despite one airport taxi driver, Jirasak Raiyai, 33, being charged for drug use after a road rage incident in Kathu in October.
In that incident, the PLTO took immediate action and announced the next day that Jirasak‘s driver’s licence had been revoked.
In terms of preventing drivers exploiting tourists at the airport, the authorities at Phuket airport have maintained “security” as the reason why independent drivers who operate through apps such as Grab and Bolt are not permitted to pick up passengers at the airport ‒ despite no suh “security” incidents involving independent taxi drivers ever being reported.
The current “understanding”, as evidenced in practice, is that independent taxi drivers who operate through an app are allowed to drop passengers off at the airport, but not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport.
Meanwhile, the only taxi drivers who are allowed by AoT Phuket to pick up passengers at the airport pay millions of baht through a concession for the exclusive rights to pick up passengers at the airport.