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Phuket Opinion: Drawing battle lines

Phuket Opinion: Drawing battle lines

PHUKET: Chalermluck Kebsup has drawn a clear line for voters in the upcoming municipal election for Patong Mayor: vote for the brother of the man deeply involved in the running of taxis and tuk-tuks in the town, or vote for the person pushing for an actual form of public transport to be brought to Patong.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 31 January 2021, 09:00AM

Whether to allow tuk-tuk and taxi drivers to continue to rule Patong has just been put on the agenda. Photo: The Phuket News / file

Whether to allow tuk-tuk and taxi drivers to continue to rule Patong has just been put on the agenda. Photo: The Phuket News / file

The election is to be held on Mar 28. Pakrit Keeesin, younger brother of influential Patong businessman Preechawut ‘Prab’ Keesin, last weekend announced that he will contest the seat of mayor in the upcoming municipal election.

Ms Chalermluck announced her intention to run for re-election by Tuesday this week.

Campaigning in earnest is expected to begin in the coming week. The Phuket office of the Election Commission of Thailand (PEC) is expected to declare all mayors and municipal councils no longer able to perform any official duties as standard procedure ahead of an election tomorrow (Feb 1), making the timing of the announcement of the proposed electric bus service in Patong impeccable. The project is already in motion, and it will take some almighty efforts to run it off the road by the time the eventual winner of the election takes office.

That said, it is not lost on The Phuket News the incredible clout Phuket’s taxi and tuk-tuk cartels and cooperatives have, especially in Patong, while also noting that candidate Mr Pakrit’s brother Mr Prab helms only one of the companies, not all of them. Very few towns could boast the level of “integrated cooperation” taxi and tuk-tuk drivers in Patong have. Any disputes are resolved either by blockades or simply shooting dead a rival that poses a threat, including motorbike taxi touts.

It is also not lost on The Phuket News that Ms Chalermluck was elected Patong Mayor in 2014, the year of the military-backed crackdown on Phuket’s taxi mafia, winning the election with just 3,330 votes. That was all that was needed to take the big chair in the busiest tourism town on the island, at a time when Phuket generated some B800 billion a year in tourism revenues.

It will be an interesting ride to see how the Patong election pans out, now that the only people left in the town are actual residents. The old ploy of paying employees to change their registered address in order to cast their vote “the right way” is not expected to be a factor this year.

Over the years no single segment of Phuket tourism businesses has done more damage to the island’s tourism image than our illustrious “public transport industry”, as officials continue to call it despite every aspect of it being privately owned and operated, through countless incidents of violence and ripoffs in the past.

The residents of Patong are about to be given a choice. It’s a pity that other true stakeholders won’t get a vote too.

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Kurt | 01 February 2021 - 09:26:14

@Chalongresident, You are right! Many tuk  tuk drivers and their 'cans' returned to hometowns. A missed chance for Patong that it in 2020 not started to regulate the number of tuk tuks with the help of a registration/license system. Demand that Patong tuk tuk drivers has registered residency in Patong and can prove tax paying.

Kurt | 01 February 2021 - 09:07:03

Before voting for a new Patong Mayor, Residents should ask themselves what the candidates have done/mend for the Patong community the last 6 years. What has present Mayor established, and what were the doings/contribution of Keesin family candidate for Patong? Vote/judge on deeds, not on just promises.

Chalongresident | 01 February 2021 - 08:02:36

Never been a better time to take on the taxi/tuktuk mafia, they're numbers are thinner than they've ever been due to no tourists. Won't but hope she pulls it off and ride the island of the scum, she'll be a hero to many of she does.

Sandbar | 01 February 2021 - 06:32:49

The taxi industry in Patong have complete control over the government and its top brass. Nothing will happen now or in the immediate future.Talk is cheap for votes. It's hard to govern democratically and with resolve to make changes whilst looking over your shoulder all the time in fear of retaliation!

Kurt | 01 February 2021 - 00:11:39

Interesting times ahead. As many Patong residents now struggle money wise, 'their right way' voting can become a 'wallet voting'. Perhaps the best 'subsidy provider' gets the votes. (?) Well, by voting they will get a mayor they deserve.

JSombra | 31 January 2021 - 17:11:57

"vote for the person pushing for an actual form of public transport to be brought to Patong."

Should read woman who has done nothing about public transport (or much else) in 7 years until comes time for reelection

Fascinated | 31 January 2021 - 11:37:53

She's not exactly squeaky clean herself but she's a far better option for Patong. Having the 'scion clan' with its web of 'influence' throughout Patong only benefits a few. time to use COVID and the election to finally break the stranglehold. Its a delight to drive through town at the moment and not see a single tuk tuk on the beach road.

maverick | 31 January 2021 - 11:32:06

And to conclude on the above point the other interested party in all this is the bars and restaurants renting motorbikes to tourists the last thing they want to see is cost effective taxis - would also affect local hospitals who would then lose an income stream 

maverick | 31 January 2021 - 11:30:03

Of course the difficulty here in using the taxi issue as an election point is that majority of voters don’t use them and many will have a family member who operates a taxi not to mention the drivers themselves many of whom are still here. The opportunity which was missed was GRAB which is in effect just a taxi booking service for the existing operators so there is no competition at all.

Timothy | 31 January 2021 - 09:50:56

It would be so nice to be rid of the tuktuks, but they are a powerful mafia. They take up all parking spaces. They sit around all day harassing people who walk by. The vehicles are not safe and shouldn't even be allowed to carry passengers. Although I remember some official said he worried about banning jet skis because the operators would turn to crime to make a living....same same?     


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