Karon Chief Police Col Prawit Sutthirueangarun delivered the news to the press after meeting with the two tourists, Kate Chipperfield and Lauren Meinties, and the van driver, Phuriphat Chankaew, at Karon Police Station yesterday (July 18).
Also present were Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai, Capt Ekkachai Siri of the Phuket Tourist Police and Somsak Potneungnong, an adviser at the Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO), as well as Narumon Jumpatong, who was the person who illegally entered the airport terminal to solicit customers for the van passenger service.
In addressing the press, Col Prawit did not even acknowledge the B3,000 amount paid as reported by the tourists in their formal complaint.
Instead, he repeatedly gave the fare paid as B2,000, as claimed by the van driver, Phuriphat, who claimed that he rushed to Karon Police Station to inform police the truth about the incident after seeing the news going viral on social media.
No one, not even Col Prawit, countered that claim or even confirmed that Phuriphat had been called to present himself at the police station.
Phuriphat yesterday admitted that he overcharged the tourists “a little bit”
“The normal price for chartering a van from the airport to Kata Beach is B1,600, or tourists can pay only B200 if they want to economize by waiting and sharing the van with others, 13 passengers each trip,” he said.
“In this case, I explained the price and ended agreeing on B2,000. I did charge them B400 more (than B1,600), but the price being B3,000 is certainly not true,” he added.
Karon Police Chief Col Prawit noted, “There was no intimidation during the service from the airport to Kata beach. It was just a misunderstanding about the price that they had negotiated together.”
Col Prawit added, “The tourists said that when they arrived at the airport, they contacted their hotel to send a van to pick them up for B1,000, but they decided to go there by the passenger service van.
“The tourists and the driver agreed on B2,000, and B2,000 was given to the driver before departing the airport.
“The tourists thought the price was too expensive, and filed the complaint to the police,” he added.
“Right now, the tourists and the van driver understand each other. The tourists don’t want to be the focus (of the incident), so they decided to go back early,” he said.
Regardless, van driver Phuriphat will be fined B2,000 for using an authorised vehicle to provide a service at the airport, Col Prawit confirmed.
The charge was requested by Airports of Thailand, which operates Phuket International Airport, in their statement issued yesterday.
The van used is not registered with one of the companies or co-operatives that are legally entitled to pick up passengers at the airport under the government concessions, AoT confirmed.
AoT did not report which public transport company or co-operative the van used was registered with, if any. (See story here.)
“Phuket Land Transport Office will later consider whether or not to suspend his license,” Col Prawit added.
The national Tourist Police posted in their report on Facebook that that there could be no legal action for overcharging as there are no government regulated fares from the airport that officials can enforce.
“As a price had been agreed between the passengers and the driver, with both sides consenting, this cannot be illegal in any way,” the Tourist Police reported. (See post here.)
Vice Governor Supoj noted that Narumon had already been find B2,000 for illegally entering the airport terminal to solicit customers for the van passenger service.
A copy of the receipt for fine, paid to AoT, was provided by the Tourist Police.
“The two women were waiting in the airport for their hotel transfer when Narumon offered her friend Phuriphat’s van to take them to their hotel,” he explained.
As for the claim of overcharging, Vice Governor Supoj said the claim was still under investigation as the victims and the accused had given different details of the incident.
V/Gov Supoj also pointed out that the Prime Minister had called for fairness in handling the issue, “especially for foreigners because Phuket is a tourist city”, he said.
“The Prime Minister has ordered for officials to rapidly find the truth about this case and prevent such incidents from happening again. Officials will be fair for both the victims and the accused for sure,” he added.
PM Prayut yesterday warned that Phuket's reputation as a tourist destination will suffer if local people do not stop trying to rip-off foreign visitors.
His message was announced by Lt Gen Weerachon Sukhontapatipak, Deputy Spokesperson of the Office of the Prime Minister. (See story here.)
If people persisted in taking unfair advantage of foreign visitors it would have a negative impact on the Thai people, Phuket and Thailand, he quoted Gen Prayut as saying.
Praprai Suankul, Chief Policy Specialist at the Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO), told the Bangkok Post that there were many public signs at the airport stating the fares for tourists.
However, the price depended on the type of vehicle. There were no fixed fares for taxi vans. It was usually up to the drivers and passengers to agree on a rate, he said, the Bangkok Post reported. (See story here.)
Tourists were normally charged 1,600-2,000 baht for a trip from the airport to the Kata area of Phuket, where the hotel was located, Mr Prapai said.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub