The drivers, bolstered by scores of other drivers from Patong’s fleet of “green plate” and “yellow-and-black” commercial passenger vehicles – aka “private taxi” cars and vans – demanded a “fairer share” of the parking spaces in Patong.
The push follows Maj Gen Pornsak Poonsawat, Deputy Commander of the Army Region 4 base in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, which is responsible for all of Southern Thailand, inspected Patong Beach in February and noted that parking spaces along the entire beachfront had been commandeered by private taxis, tuk-tuks and car and motorbike rental operators.
“Rental vehicle operators and taxi drivers must park somewhere else. Lots of tourists visit Patong Beach, especially during the (tourism) high season. We need to take of of their needs,” Gen Pornsak said.
“The car park spaces are for the public, not for private business,” he added. (See story here.)
Since then, officials have tallied that there are currently 84 taxi and tuk-tuk ranks in Patong – and last Thursday (May 18) unveiled plans to slash that number to just 21.
Facing forced reduced presence on the streets, unhappy drivers massed at Provincial Hall on Wednesday to voice their grievance at a meeting joined by Phuket Vice Governor Siwaporn Chuasawad, Patong Police Chief Col Chaiwat Uikum, Patong Deputy Mayor Weerasak Khaminthong, officers from the Phuket Land Transportation Office – and Col Santi Sakuntanark, Commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment and the highest-ranking army officer stationed in Phuket.
“We want number to stay at 84, but if that is not possible, then we want the taxi rank areas combined create bigger ranks,” said Anan Pluemjit, one drivers’ representatives.
Mr Anan added taxi and tuk-tuk drivers were willing to reduce the number to vehicles occupying streetside parking spaces to leave about 50-60% available for the public to use.
Vehicles currently using parking spaces will instead be on standby elsewhere and called up to join the rank when spaces become available.
However, after the meeting on Wednesday, fellow driver representative Aroon Kreuajan said that if officials were to reduce the number of ranks in Patong to 21 – then it would have to be at locations agreed by the Patong drivers.
To this, Col Santi explained, “Many tourists have trouble finding parking spaces in Patong, because there is not lot of public transport. We are trying to find a solution for everyone within the confines of the law.
“Thai and foreign tourists who come to Patong beach will have a place to park their vehicles,” he assured.
“The request for more than 21 ranks in Patong – or bigger ranks – in my opinion is possible, but this must be approved by the Phuket Provincial Office, Col Santi added.
V/Gov Siwaporn said the issued would be handed over to another Phuket Vice Governor to head an investigative committee, which was to convene at a later date – yet to be specified – to further discuss the issue.