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Phuket Opinion: Patong public transport drivers shine again

Phuket Opinion: Patong public transport drivers shine again

PHUKET: This past week saw yet another return of the ugly behaviour of Phuket’s famed “public transport drivers”, as officials like to call them: namely our illustrious tuk-tuk drivers in Patong.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 27 March 2022, 10:00AM

Photo: The Phuket News / file

Photo: The Phuket News / file

The incident of four tourists taking a parked tuk-tuk for a joyride early Thursday morning (Mar 24) could have ended much worse than it did, far beyond the possibility of facing charges. The four young men should be thankful it didn’t.

Of course, the four tourists were in the wrong and deserve a slap on the wrists – but by police, not anyone else. But it was the reaction after the men stopped and exited the tuk-tuk that was the warning sign.

One of the Thai men present – most likely the tuk-tuk driver – overreacted to something one of the four men said and chased after him down the street. What was he going to do if he actually caught him? Surely more than just express more strong words. Patong tuk-tuk drivers and their quick tempers have long been known. In nearly every confrontation reported they have had only one reaction: violence.

That incident came just 48 hours after a Thai female tourist frightened for her safety reported to police a motorbike taxi driver pursuing her after he was seen wielding a large knife. As the woman pointed out when she shared her video online, “Try to think about whether Patong is a tourist attraction nowadays or not? Can you carry a weapon too?”

Yet in both incidents this week the Patong Police upheld their long tradition of supporting the local taxi, tuk-tuk and motorbike taxi cartels.

In the borrowed tuk-tuk incident, police intentionally did not name the tuk-tuk driver in their report. In the knife-wielding incident, they revealed only what is to be presumed to be the motorbike taxi driver’s first name and assured that he had faced legal action – again, without specifying exactly what action was taken to ensure the driver and his associates now know that carrying weapons in public in Phuket’s biggest tourism town is unacceptable.

For decades action by Patong Police, and other Phuket officials, has been token. A grandstanding effort a handful of years ago posed as an invasion of police to rein in bad taxi and tuk-tuk drivers only saw the same practices return with months of the visiting police force from Bangkok leave the island.

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No other serious efforts have been made. Officials just keep asking, “Please”. Everyone who lives on the island knows why. At last report, it costs only about B200,000 to put a brand-new tuk-tuk fully registered and legal on the street, but it can cost up to a million baht for the “right” to join a Patong taxi stand. That is just too much money to ignore.

The lack of attention to these incidents by leading provincial and tourism officials highlights the bigger issue, maintaining the Dark Ages mindset that if they do not recognise the problem, then it doesn’t need fixing. They couldn’t be more wrong. As for the bigger picture, there is simply no motivation among any of the players and powermongers to change anything when there is so much benefit to be had.

While not just Phuket, but the nation, struggles to attract tourists – according to the latest report by the TAT only 1,889 international arrivals landed in Phuket on Friday (Mar 25) – these incidents are only adding to the reasons tourists can choose from to not come. These incidents are being shared on social media. There is no stopping them.

Tourism officials quite rightly deeply believe that in marketing Phuket as a tourism destination all the “value add” options for a holiday – for example, Thai massages and shopping and dining options, in addition to the beaches – are considered cumulatively when tourists decide to vacation in Phuket.

But for some reason they are not understanding that the same is true for the negative aspects involved in deciding whether or not to travel to any destination for a holiday. The effect is cumulative; all the negative aspects add up to a reason to not come. This type of behaviour on the streets is not what tourists want.

If there is a time to actually get our tuk-tuk, taxi and motorbike taxi drivers behaving in a manner that officials keep saying they want, that time is now.

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JohnC | 28 March 2022 - 10:56:06

Anyone stupid enoug to leave the keys in their vehicle and walk away is asking for trouble. Anyone stupid (or drunk) enough to steal a vehicle especially when you are on holiday in a foreign country should be given a lesson on how to behave.

Ash Ward | 28 March 2022 - 06:05:19

@Gerry. Yes,  unfortunatly there are tourists who drink  too much and behave badly. They should have been fined by the police. Stealing a vehicle is crime.

GerryT81 | 27 March 2022 - 21:21:54

@Ash   Wrong ! Common sense would have prevented any stupid idiot from taking a Tuk Tuk at all.No one else to blame here except those stupid bunch of morons.Again ,a nice punch in the face is what they would have deserved.

Capricornball | 27 March 2022 - 14:56:19

This is your chance to practice REAL journalism that can result in fundamental changes to the unacceptable status quo. We will likely see some angry transport thug striking out with more violence, but that will only underscore the reality of the situation.  Involve the DSI...hold their feet to the fire for REAL change and lasso in this entrenched crime scene once and for all.

GerryT81 | 27 March 2022 - 14:51:09

@Fascinated   To answer your question : Yes !  The rest of your comment about me is pure speculation and therefore meaningless. 

Capricornball | 27 March 2022 - 14:51:08

This is a start PN, but the campaign to shine a brighter light on the reality of transport cartels, the police that partake and benefit from these criminals, and the do-nothing officials that condone these thug actions deserve no rest from the onslaught of a concerned media. The average Thai also hates this crime scene, but seem to have accepted it as the reality with no hope for change.

Ash Ward | 27 March 2022 - 14:15:32

That incident with the Tuk Tuk would never had happened if the driver had removed the keys. just common sense gone wrong.

christysweet | 27 March 2022 - 14:05:11

 Well punk, was it 5, or was it 6  comments I shot off already? To tell ya the truth- in all the commotion,  I lost count m'self. So d'ya feel lucky today,  punk ? Huh? Do yahhh?!!

CaptainJack69 | 27 March 2022 - 12:00:07

If I knew my reaction was going to feature in the international news cycle and directly affect my livelihood through tourist arrivals then yes, I would begrudgingly feel obliged to control my temper. Maybe not give them "a bunch of flowers" but certainly refrain from the attempted murder tuk-tuk drivers are famous for.

Fascinated | 27 March 2022 - 11:45:22

'Punks'- go on Clint, make my day!

Fascinated | 27 March 2022 - 11:44:49

Gotta love internet warriors- 'taught them a lesson the hard way'- so YOU would have committed an Assault? Well you wouldn't because most internet hard men. aren't.  The key to the article is the fact that these thugs continue to shoot themselves in the foot. the more thais that shame them the better as it is only them that will have an impact, not the actions against foreigners.

christysweet | 27 March 2022 - 11:14:47

Value added ? More like vag-added. Prostitution will always trump these sort of incidents and it's the same reason Immigration  can make it an unpleasant experience. Males and their gonads .... jeez.

GerryT81 | 27 March 2022 - 10:37:26

4 Punks steal a Tuk Tuk for a joyride and the driver is blamed for reacting angrily ? Something very wrong here ! If it would have been my car, I would have taught them a lesson the hard way. The writer of this article and some reader probably would have presented a bunch of flowers to those idiots for returning the car ! 


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