The warning was posted online yesterday (Sept 6), while Tourist Police travelled to Koh Samui to visit the female foreign tourists who were caught up in the taxi dispute at Ratsada Pier last Friday (Sept 2).
The officers, led by Lt Col Puttipong Wongwattanadej acting under instructions from national Tourist Police Commander Lt Gen Sukhun Pornmainon, met the four young women tourists from Israel at the Chaweng Villawee Hotel in Bophut to apologise for their experience involving the Phuket taxi drivers.
During the incident last Friday, one taxi driver with “Ratsada VIP” taxi services group operating under a concession with Seatran ferry company to transport Seatran customers from the pier prevented the van the Israeli tourists were in from leaving the pier.
The man’s behaviour during the incident, recorded on video and later posted online, was described as a “threatening and intimidating manner”.
So far police have deemed that both drivers involved in the incident were “in the right”, though the PLTO says it is still investigating the incident.
The PLTO has now stepped up its stance to protect Phuket’s “organised” taxi drivers with the warning issued yesterday by PLTO Chief Adcha Buachan threatening full effect of the law against independent taxi drivers who use vehicles that are not registered as commercial passenger vehicles.
The warning comes with absolutely no relevance to the incident last Friday. The van the Israeli tourists had ordered was confirmed by police and the PLTO to be fully legally registered as a commercial passenger vehicle complete with “yellow and black” licence plates.
The tourists had ordered the van to pick them up from the pier through the Bolt app.
The notice issued yesterday warned that any people found using vehicles not registered as taxis to provide a taxi service will be prosecuted under the full extent of the law. People caught doing so faced up to five years in jail or a fine of B20,000 to B100,000, or both, Mr Adcha warned.
According to Mr Adcha, the warning came in response to complaints on social media about illegal taxis in operation.
Not mentioned by Mr Adcha was that posts online following the incident last Friday focussed on calling “organised” taxi operators with exclusive rights to specific tourists “mafia”.
“According to social media data and complaints about the illegal use of private cars to hire passengers, a quarrel has caused trouble and affected the occupation of legal public transport operators and affected the image and the reputation of the country and Phuket as a world-class tourist city,” Mr Adcha said.
In response the PLTO issued the following warning:
- Using a private car to carry passengers by hire illegally whether contracting the service through an application or by any means, if an offense is found, the Phuket Provincial Transport Office will proceed according to the regulations and consider penalties as provided by law in all cases.
In the case of an offense under the Transport Act B.E. 2522, it will be considered to be sent to the investigating officer to prosecute in accordance with the legal process (The statutory penalty rate is up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine from B20,000 to B100,000, or both.)
- Passengers should choose to hire a legal car. By choosing an illegal car, the passenger may not be covered in the event of an accident or it may not be convenient by wasting their travel time and may be required to testify in court if the driver is arrested and prosecuted.
Mr Adcha said that information about public transport can be found on the website of the Phuket Provincial Land Transport Office at https://www.dlt.go.th/site/phuket, on the Phuket Provincial Land Transport Office Facebook page, through the Phuket Transport Office official LINE channel (ID: @704jhnxb) and through the Land Transport Department hotline 1584.
Of note, all the PLTO channels for communication are in Thai language only.
“To report a guilty taxi driver [sic] or if you have been exploited by a public transport driver, you can report the offense through the Public Transport Passenger Protection Center hotline 1584 or Line @1584DLT,” Mr Adcha said.
However, The Phuket News notes that it has been long proven much more effective to follow the Tourist Police suggestion to contact them on their hotline 1155.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub