Driver who blocked van at Phuket pier: “We are NOT taxi mafia”

PHOTO: Drivers fight "taxi mafia" label after blocking tourists from taking van. (via Willy Thuan / Eakkapop Thongtub)

A scuffle between taxi drivers at the Rassada Pier in Phuket on Friday, with three female and one male tourist trapped in the middle, has taxi drivers at the pier arguing that they are not mafia. The travellers had just returned from Koh Phi Phi just after 10am and chose not to use their transportation from the stand at the pier, reportedly after the word “mafia” was used in connection with the taxis queued there.

The group instead walked 50 metres and hopped in a registered commercial passenger van with yellow license plates that confirm legality before an enraged taxi driver stepped in front of the vehicle to block it and demanded that the passengers get out and take a pier taxi, which the startled tourists did.

The Phuket Land Transport Office vowed to question the two drivers, particularly the one who stopped the van and asked people to report similar incidents of what they called harassment, warning drivers that violations of regulations could result in fines or a suspended license. Phuket, along with most tourist areas in Thailand, often has its reputation tarnished by “taxi mafia” incidents of rip-off prices and poor treatment of tourists.

They noted that the man who stopped the taxi “made a threatening or intimidating manner that damages the image of tourism.”

Now that man, a 37 year old local taxi driver, is fighting back, saying that the Ratsada VIP Group, an alliance of taxi drivers with its seating area at the pier, is not taxi mafia. He says that the use of the word inside the terminal was slanderous and drove customers away.

He complained about ride-hailing mobile apps that he says steal their customers, often offering lower fares that are not legal. Rather than a mafia, drivers said the coalition had been put together to help local taxi drivers in Moo 7 Rassada earn a living. The angry driver said being called a taxi mafia was unfair, and likened their exclusive deal at the pier to those common at other travel ports.

“Why don’t you call the taxi drivers at the airport ‘mafia’? It is a B2,000 fine for any taxi driver not belonging to that group being caught there.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News 1 & 2

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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