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Phuket Opinion: Phuket’s dangerous taxi drivers? Send in the Army, every time

Phuket Opinion: Phuket’s dangerous taxi drivers? Send in the Army, every time

PHUKET: The horrific accident that saw a Phuket taxi driver kill a 57-year-old Swiss man on a motorbike in Rawai on Monday (Dec 13) simultaneously sent shivers down the spine of those who ride motorbikes on the island and sparked another outpouring of outrage from the island’s expat community, and among expats abroad who are very familiar with Phuket.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 19 December 2021, 10:00AM

The victim, Carlo Franciolli, died after a taxi van – an SUV modified to carry seven passengers – swerved across the road and struck Carlo on his motorbike before slamming into a roadside power pole.

While the people who care about Phuket are calling for justice to be served, they already know that it is unlikely any form of true justice will see the light of day, and with the chilling death of Carlo the games have already begun.

The taxi driver, Somchai Kobkoi, has already told police, as noted in the police report, that he was driving downhill at speed when he lost control of the vehicle. But anyone can see that the accident happened on a flat, straight section of road. Any version of “downhill” is at least several hundred metres away, and drivers in both directions on that section of road have a clear, unobstructed view of any other vehicle.

As simple as it gets, the police cannot be trusted when it comes to dealing with Phuket’s taxi drivers. The notorious accident in 2018 that saw a Phuket taxi driver wipe out six cars and a motorbike in morning rush hour traffic – killing the motorbike driver while the taxi’s tourist passenger was still in the car on his way from the airport to his hotel – provided a rare glimpse into the extent that local law enforcement will go to in order to hide the resulting “justice” delivered that they so often like to boast about.

After initially refusing to name the driver in that accident, police then named him as Marut Puangsombat, 23 years old at the time. Of course Marut was instantly charged with reckless driving causing death, but it took 15 months to bring him to trial. Capt Suporn Mueangkai of the Thalang Police, who led the investigation, took 217 days to bring the charge to court.

During that time it took six months before police finally gave Marut’s correct family name, Puangbanjong, to the press. Capt Suporn said he had confused the name with another case.

Providing the wrong name initially made it impossible to track the case at Phuket Provincial Court, and without being provided the correct name the Phuket Public Prosecutor’s Office said they had no idea which case The Phuket News was asking about. Apparently a taxi wiping out six cars and a motorbike and killing a person is not memorable to Phuket’s public prosecutors.

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Finally it came to light that Marut was initially sentenced to four years imprisonment, but in the end he was released on a suspended sentence and was banned from driving his taxi for three months.

All throughout the police investigation and the trial Marut was allowed to continue working as a taxi driver, picking up and dropping off tourists at Phuket International Airport, including through the lucrative tourism high season that year.

That’s Phuket’s trusted law enforcers doing their part to protect the image of Phuket as a world-class tourism destination. There is no reason to believe this case will be handled any differently.

For some reason top-end officials do not perceive the dangerous driving of Phuket’s “public transport sector”, as they like to call it – despite every form of transport on the island being privately owned and operated – as damaging to Phuket’s reputation as a “world-class tourism destination”. Yet Phuket’s taxi drivers, and especially the van drivers, are deservingly despised by Thais and foreigners alike for their dangerous driving.

According to local Swiss newspaper laRegione, Carlo was known as an open, welcome and charitable person who wintered in Thailand, mostly Phuket, for many years. He even arrived to help in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. What damage to Phuket’s reputation do officials think they are limiting by ignoring his death? What’s the point in promoting Phuket as a safe haven from COVID-19, if tourists are going to get killed on the roads? Of note, Carlo’s uncle is a former mayor of their hometown Lostallo. News of Phuket’s deadly taxi drivers already returning to the roads so early in Phuket’s tourism recovery efforts has already bolted.

Yet, when it comes to a video being posted on Facebook of a drunken bully of a parking attendant threatening tourists wanting to park in order to dine at a restaurant, in strolls the Army to ensure that the situation is handled quickly and properly. The imbalance in what is perceived as more damaging to Phuket is stupefying.

When it comes to the dangerous taxi drivers on our roads, they should send in the Army, every time. Period.

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Taswegian | 22 December 2021 - 08:42:12

Slightly disappointing comments here relating to alleged personal lives of contributors. Please try to respect other contributors even if you disagree. As to reasons for visiting LoS, I come with my wife of 48 years and our favourite outing is to New Smile Dentists at the Merlin  Hotel in Patong! Very erotic...

Christy Sweet | 21 December 2021 - 18:48:44

Thailand sells sex, and sex sells Thailand and legions of males are buying. Why not promote it instead of trying to pretend  otherwise. 

Fascinated | 21 December 2021 - 11:53:12

I made a comment recently about the serviceability of vehicles as the vans and busses returned to the roads. Came true yesterday when a minivan had an altercation with a fish truck after losing a wheel. Pictures on the Phuket rescue guys' facebook. Be careful out there folks.

Sir Burr | 21 December 2021 - 07:52:55

A certain somebody on here was dumped by their mate for a bar-girl. Thus the giant chip on their shoulder.

DeKaaskopp | 20 December 2021 - 20:48:13

Omg Christy.You still thinking tourism in Thailand is still only about prostitution? What about the millions of couples coming here or female tourists.You think they all are looking for hookers ? Wake up ! It's 2021 and not the 60's 70's or 80's anymore.

Dave_C | 20 December 2021 - 20:24:20

Christy. You are long term resident and I personally appreciate your highlighting double standards but most tourists have no understanding of the "mafia" not to be confused with "taxi mafia" that exists in Thailand.
It is truly a national problem.

christysweet | 20 December 2021 - 14:18:54

Well, the woman being bullied was Thai, and the man who got killed was 'whitey' so there's your answer. Thailand can treat foreigners as badly as it wants as long as cheap, young prostitutes are widely available.     

christysweet | 20 December 2021 - 14:12:38

A few years back I took in 2   neglected horses  and the owner, a French woman gave me some gear to cover  the expenses. Then without reimbursing me, she got police to force its return. I told them  her visa had expired but they lied and told me it  hadn't-  then a couple of months later, she got deported for overstay.  I could write a book about Cherng-Telay police.  

Sir Burr | 20 December 2021 - 11:16:46

The army already tried to rein in the taxi drivers. They arrested nearly 100 of them in Karon and then released them all. Money talks.

Kurt | 20 December 2021 - 11:11:10

Is there nothing written in a issued taxi license what a taxi is obligated too?  Order taxi drivers to fill out on paper all their taxi trips from where to where. Order 50 % must be 'street service'. Not only 1 way airport to hotel. There are enough government office bureaucrates to check these montly taxi reports. And see or a taxi license has to be revoked.

Kurt | 20 December 2021 - 11:00:47

@JohnC, ..."less reason for anyone to use taxis"?  Did you ever stand at side Patak Rd, or Chaofa West/East Rd to flag down a taxi like you can do in BKK?  There are no taxis to flag down. Phuket Government year after year remains relectant to 'order' an normal taxi service like in BKK. Are Officials bribed to let this éxclusief'Phuket taxi situation continue?  

christysweet | 20 December 2021 - 09:48:49

Why  not contact the hdqrts. of that grocery on Boat Ave and tell them from now on you are shopping at the competitor up the road?   Start a boycott. 

Capricornball | 20 December 2021 - 08:57:39

Good piece PN. This whole issue warrants a plea directly to PM Chan Ocha to send in the troops. One of the first things he did following the coup was to try and lasso in the pub trans mafia. I had great hopes, but the rats have returned to their nests with a vengeance, and post covid seems to be even worse. The RTP is worthless and is essentially a core part of the problem. Now is the time to act.

JohnC | 20 December 2021 - 08:38:14

It Phuket had decent public transport there would be much less reason for anyone to use taxis. 

Fascinated | 19 December 2021 - 19:01:15

@Timothy- apologies I meant Boat Avenue! You are absolutely correct though- that was where I got harassed.

Timothy | 19 December 2021 - 12:00:47

Fasinated, Boat Ave is the same. Best parking for taxi only. They have an area to sit and threaten you if you dare come too close. The mafia is so strong they are allowed to operate without meters and set their own rate. We definitely need the Army to sort out these P'sOS. Phuket could be so much better with real taxis like bkk. 

CaptainJack69 | 19 December 2021 - 11:09:52

At airport arrivals here now we are forced to wait outside and watch as the taxi vampires harass each and every single person that walks out the doors. Even though they've just walked past the taxi booths there are more touts and booths out here from the same 2 scum companies. Unlike other airports there's no corale and their behaviour is totally unimpeded.

CaptainJack69 | 19 December 2021 - 11:03:44

Once again PN's 'opinion' piece is spot on. Well done. Unfortunately this is another issue we are all already well too aware of and we all know nothing will ever be done about. There's simply too much money at steak for too many powerful people. Phukets taxi drivers act with careless abandon and complete immunity from prosecution.

Kurt | 19 December 2021 - 10:42:27

Is RTP Captain Suporn still Captain, or was he able to buy himself up in the ranks already?

Fascinated | 19 December 2021 - 10:28:47

Its not just the public roads either. I tried to park in a spot outside a supermarket in Boat Lagoon last night but was blocked. The spots closet to the supermarket are 'reserved' by the taxi and minibus drivers. A comment at the customer service desk in side just got shrugged shoulders and 'mafia'. Even on private land they get away with it.

christysweet | 19 December 2021 - 10:08:50

A few years back a 'Dr' from a horse clinic nearby flubbed up a euthanasia on a pony very badly. He was no doctor  and it took me almost 2 years and a trip to Bangkok to see him charged. Dept .Livestock official   came to Phuket to force it. I could write a book about Cherng Telay police 


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