The leader, Sakol Srisompotch, told The Phuket News what sparked the siege. “The police were trying to trap us. An undercover policeman parked a black-plate tuk-tuk in a space reserved for yellow-plate tuk-tuks.
“The tuk-tuk drivers asked him nicely to move his vehicle out, but then he showed his police ID and claimed that the drivers had abused him.
“The police then arrested them on charges of forcing someone to do something (moving out of the parking lot) and not allowing someone to do something (parking in their place). The drivers denied doing either of these so they must now go to court.
“We closed Patong traffic to let people know that we do not want the police to trick us this way. “Since June 26 last year, we have asked five times to meet the Governor about this but he has assigned vice-governors to receive our complaints, and they told us to wait 15 days. Now we have been waiting for seven or eight months, and no action has been taken.”
Asked what he wanted from the authorities, Mr Sakol said, “We want the fine [for operating an illegal tuk-tuk] increased to B2,000 so that the black plate tuk-tuk drivers will not be able to afford it, and their numbers will dwindle. The fine now is too low.”
The legal drivers are so strapped for cash, he said, that some are turning to the dark side. “Some of yellow-license tuk-tuk drivers have sold their yellow plates and become black tuk-tuks because they can get a lot of money.”
Yellow plates, he said, sell for as much as B500,000, enough to buy two or three new vehicles, allowing a driver to pay off debts or to start his own fleet.
“We can’t demand a new law – that’s not our job. But we want a higher fine and we want the police to get more serious about arresting the illegal tuk-tuks. This will get rid of them.
He added, “We can’t prove that police officers took bribes from anyone, so we can’t talk about that until we can get evidence.”