The news was handed down by the Provincial Public Transportation Committee (PPTC) at Patong Police Station this morning (July 31).
About 30 of the “public transport” drivers waited outsided the police station while the news was delivered. Many of them carried worried expressions on their faces.
Inside the police station, leading representatives for Patong’s legion of drivers were shown a map pinpointing the exact locations of where the 21 taxi ranks, or “stands” as they are called by officials, will be.
Present in the meeting room were officers from Patong Traffic Police, Kathu District Office, Phuket Land Transport Office as well as soldiers from the Royal Thai Army 25th Infantry regiment, based in Phuket.
Patong Traffic Police Chief Maj Ekkarat Plaiduang explained that his officers were only following orders.
“We have to do our job as ordered by the PPTC, which is to inform all drivers in Patong of the new rules over the next three days. After then, the new public parking regulations will apply,” he told The Phuket News.
With PLTO Chief Banyat Kantha not present, one PLTO official who asked not to be named explained to the drivers, “First, traffic police will warn you to not park outside the designated areas. Your vehicle details and names will be recorded and handed over to the PLTO.
“If police find you guilty, you will be fined. This can happen only twice. After that your commercial drivers’ license will be suspended for seven days.
“The next time you are caught, your license will be suspended for 15 days,” he added.
Repeat offenders who continue to ignore the parking regulations will be called in for “attitude adjustment”, the official warned.
Patong Traffic Police Chief Maj Ekkarat reiterated his officers’ predicament.
“This is the conclusion of the PPTC to you all. We are only informing you of it. If you are not happy, we have no choice,” he said.
“Don’t blame us,” he repeated time and again.
Maj Ekkarat pointed out that three more taxi stands, and their locations, had yet to be approved by Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong.
“It has been requested to allow three more taxi stands,” he said.
According to documents available at the meeting, the three locations requested are for one near the
Deevana Patong Resort & Spa and another near The Lunar Patong, both located on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd, and a third near the Patong Pearl Hotel on Sawatdirak Rd.
Although taxi and tuk-tuk drivers’ representatives at the meeting today, and those waiting outside the police station, were reluctant to speak with The Phuket News, Maj Ekkarat assured all feedback from the drivers would be passed on to the PPTC.
The meeting today followed Phuket Governor Norraphat and any other senior Phuket officials involved in the campaign last week declining to confirm or deny any imminent action pending against van, taxi and tuk-tuk drivers commandeering parking spaces in Patong. (See story here.)
However, that silence followed Lt Col Surasak Phuengyam, Deputy Commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment, announcing on July 21 that the Patong drivers had until Aug 3 to move out or face action from the military. (See story here.)
The Patong drivers have consistently pushed for more than twice the number parking spaces than ever announced by Phuket officials in this latest campaign (see stories here and here), which was brought on by Maj Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Deputy Commander of the Army Region 4 base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, which is responsible for all of Southern Thailand.
During an inspection of Patong Beach in February, Gen Pornsak noted that parking spaces along the entire beachfront had been commandeered by private taxis, tuk-tuks and car and motorbike rental operators. (See story here.)