Royal Thai Army confirmed it will not suspend any further the implementation of its plan to slash the number of parking spaces occupied by taxis in Patong and give the parkings back to residents and guest of Phuket’s key tourism town. The announcement was made on Friday, July 21.
“The new regulations regarding public parking spaces will be enforced from Aug 3. We are not listening to any suggestion from taxi and tuk-tuk drivers anymore. Before we tried to reach a compromise with them but they discarded every suggestion,” said Lt Col Surasak Phuengyam, Deputy Commander of the 25th InfantryRegiment.
“I believe the Provincial Office will make an official announcement soon. We have to inform operators before the enforcement of the new regulations. After they are enforced, actions will be taken against all violators without any exceptions,” Lt Col Surasak added.
The initial plan presupposed slashing the number of taxi ranks in Patong from current 84 to just 21. This idea was strongly opposed by drivers who suggested either a less radical cut or fewer but bigger parking spaces for their vehicles. The final decision is yet to be announced by provincial administration, Lt Col Surasak said.
“Many local hotels and shops did not agree with the suggestion from operators that they voiced on July 3. At that time they asked to have 49 parking spaces to which we answered by allowing them three more. However, the Provincial Office has to think about this again,” Lt Col Surasak said.
The Phuket News' sister paper Khao Phuket talked to several taxi drivers who emphasised that slashing down the number of parking spaces will have negative consequences for everybody, not only them.
“This decision will affect us greatly. I have been living in Patong and doing this job for over 30 years and I never faced the problem of officials lessen possibilities for people who already live hand to mouth,” said Mr Gob Chailert, a tuk-tuk driver stationed at Merlin Hotel.
His fellow driver Somphoat Jaroenram stationed at Holiday Inn Hotel pointed out that fewer parking spaces for taxis may result in vehicles having to cruise around the town creating traffic jams.
The third driver, Jaroen Chueayuan from Lamai Hotel, didn't elaborate on the possible effects of returning parking spaces to public but instead shared his vision of what the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers community is like. Mr Jaroen reminded that Patong tuk-tuk drivers are like a family.
“We are doing our job like we are relatives. We never fight with each other. I admit that some taxi drivers can fight with their customers, but it is normal, because there are both good people and bad people in every trade,” said Mr Jaroen.