The arrests appear to be a shot across the bows of the illegal tuk-tuk drivers, who have been proliferating in Patong in the past year.
Jaturong Kaewkasi, chief of the Phuket Provincial Land Transportation Office (PLTO) told The Phuket News, “Col Somchai Ponatong of the Army had received complaints so we knew that we had to work on the issue.”
He explained that a vicious cycle has developed whereby legitimate tuk-tuk drivers were selling their tuk-tuks along with the yellow plate for up to a million baht, then buying an unlicensed “black plate” tuk-tuk and applying for another yellow plate, which they would then sell again.
Now, however, the PLTO has declared the yellow plates to be its property, bringing all trading to a halt, but leaving hundreds of black-plate tuk-tuks still plying their trade illegally.
They have annoyed the legit drivers by undercutting prices -- one of the reasons behind the mob blockade of Patong streets on March 3, which led to many tuk-tuk drivers being arrested in the massive raid on Patong on August 28.
Mr Jaturong said the black-plate drivers, of which there are five small groups, should get to together to form a cooperative and then apply for yellow plates. If they do not, they risk arrest.