PHUKET: The past week has seen a real change in the weather in Phuket, literally and figuratively.
The monsoon season appears to finally be drawing to a close and with temperatures dropping in colder northern climes, high season is upon us. Hotel occupancy rates are rising and the island’s population continues to swell.
By some estimates Phuket’s actual population is already in excess of one million. The true figure remains unknown.
To keep everyone entertained, numerous events are planned: the 40-million baht Chang-powered Patong Carnival, the Phuket Old Town Festival and the Red Cross / News Year’s Festival, to name just a few. After last year’s airport fiasco, all of this is long-awaited good news for the tourism industry.
The huge influx onto the island, however, spells trying times for Phuket’s law enforcement community.
For every charter flight full of holidaymakers that touches down at Phuket International Airport, it is safe to assume there is a busload full of migrant workers rolling into the provincial bus terminal, all hoping to reap benefits from the extra cash being spent in the province at this time of year.
While the vast majority of these arrivals are honest and hardworking, the sheer number of incoming migrants combined with the current state of the economy make an increase in crime almost inevitable.
As if on cue, the past week has also seen what appears to be a dramatic rise in the number of violent crime: a wild shootout between police and alleged thieves in one of the island’s most popular parks; a woman brutally disfigured in a senseless acid attack (see front page story, this week’s Gazette); a transgender restaurant worker shot through the temple point blank in Wichit; a monk and a merit-maker run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver; a Rajabhat Phuket freshman stabbed to death by a fellow student; and the brutal murder of Japanese national Yukiho Yamada.
We can only hope that this is all coincidental and not the start of a crime trend that will run until March or April.
One cause for optimism was the recent capture of two murder suspects from Ratchaburi who were on the run in Phuket for almost a year.
Indeed, Phuket’s huge migrant population, warm weather, great food and cheap prices make the island an ideal winter escape for people of every stripe, both Thai and foreign – including some who should be wearing stripes of the type issued in Thai prisons.
It’s a shame that the automated CCTV security system planned for the Tah Chat Chai road checkpoint is not in place, because police are going to need as many tools as possible to combat crime this high season.
— Stephen Michael Fein
What’s the use of number plates if you can’t read them?
by DW (anonymously sent to The Thaiger)
Hiding in plain sight, and rarely noted—at least by anyone I’ve spoken with—are thousands of cars, vans, buses, trucks, and even motorcycles. Most are commercial vehicles … you know, the ones with green and yellow plates.
Now when I say they’re “hiding in plain sight”, I mean to say that yes, you can plainly see that it’s a Toyota Camry, or white passenger van, but take a look at that license plate. Isn’t it difficult to make out the numbers now that they’re painted over with the same colour as the background?
Oh, wait a minute, maybe you’re looking at one of those immaculate plates that have the highly reflective plastic covers. Yes, those ones that catch any bit of sunlight and bounce it back in such way that the plate numbers are near impossible to read.
Bad enough during the day, but at night, the glare from your own headlights is enough to blind you!
Speaking of which, there is another interesting observation to be made: Next time it’s dark and you are in a line of cars waiting for the light to turn green, take a look around at the license plates.
You will likely see a lot of vehicles that have the small lights meant to illuminate the rear plate either not working or, dare I say, “modified” to disguise the numbers barely on display. If you’re keeping tabs, you will also note that the vast majority of these modifications are associated with the green and yellow license plates.
Does that surprise you?
Now consider how many times you’ve seen vehicles racing through the streets, highways, and byways of this fine little island. And, for just a moment, stop and think, how many times have you noted green or yellow plates in those photos of horrific accidents that are all-too-often reported in our newspapers?
What of the speed cameras and prolific use of CCTV to monitor every street, lane, and intersection? Surely that must go some way to reducing the carnage. (It seems we hear less of drivers fleeing the scene, so maybe there is a return on the investment, after all.)
Now if disguising your license plate amounts to a traffic violation, you would be right to assume the police are missing an opportunity to collect a hefty sum in fines levied against perpetrators. Since speed cameras are effectively rendered useless in the face of 30% of vehicles carrying plates that are unrecognisable, there again is huge loss in revenue.
Well then, what to do? What to do?
Here’s an idea: Police checks and road blocks are common enough; fines are given out for driving without a seat belt, no helmet, no insurance, improper registration or lack of a driving license, etc. So why not for license plates that are illegible, modified, or intentionally disguised?
What about a public reporting system that allows citizens to photograph a plate and send it directly to the police? Officers could issue fines from the comfort of their desks.
Before long, the practice of “hiding in plain sight” would lose its appeal. Instead of becoming more popular, it would diminish, possibly even stop altogether.
At the end of day, one has to ask: What is the purpose of a license plate if it cannot be read?
The 35 billion baht white elephant – Phuket’s light rail
“About the only thing feasible in this rendering is the blue sky.”
Spending 35 billion baht on infrastructure that few will use, is planned on the least useful route and will cause mayhem for a 3-5 year build time is a waste of money.
The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) is currently chatting to the private sector and local administrative bodies to support Phuket’s planned light-rail/tram project.
Firstly, where will it travel?
The tram route plans to run from Tha Noon in Phang Nga province, across Sarasin Bridge onto Phuket, past the airport, through Phuket Town on the east coast and then finishing at Chalong’s main intersection near the Chalong Circle.
Phuket’s tourists, who mainly head for the west coast beaches, are being almost completely ignored in the planning.
Oh, but the tram will travel from the airport to Phuket Town (where less than 5% of Phuket’s tourists stay). That route is already well connected with Airport and private buses – the least of Phuket’s transport woes.
The two-way tram will be constructed right in the middle of existing, already busy, roads – principally Thepkasattri road from the island’s north to Phuket Town. Then in the middle of the equally busy Chao Fah East road which, mostly, doesn’t already have a centre-strip.
The MRTA expects to seek cabinet approval for the project in the middle of this year with construction likely to begin in 2020. They estimate it will be operational by 2023 (code for ‘maybe before 2025’).
At this stage, the MRTA estimates fares will be no more than 100 – 137 baht, less for shorter hops between the 21 proposed stations. This already puts the cost of daily use for many local Thais out of reach. If it costs about 80 baht to fill an average 110cc scooter which would last most of the week – you do the maths.
Then the locals will still have to use public transport, or their feet, to get to and from the nearest tram stop.
Here are four key problems with the whole idea…
The tram stops avoid most of the tourist hot spots along the west coast of the island and concentrates on locals living along the main Thepkasattri trunk from Thalang to Phuket Town and then Chao Fah East to Chalong.
Patong? Kata? Karon? Surin? Mai Khao? Kamala? Nowhere near them. We acknowledge that a tram would never be a solution to get to people to and between these locations.
The second point is a glaring failure in the concept to measure popular and cheap services currently available – mostly the trusty and cheap motorbike.
Thai users are unlikely to give up their point-to-point motorcycle transport for a more inconvenient, and expensive, tram that will necessitate them using expensive taxis, buses and motorcycle taxis at either end to get them to their destinations.
Next, imagine the three year construction period which, if following recent major road construction projects, is likely to blow out to four or five years. And the massive disruption of traffic during the construction time. Ask anyone living in Chalong and Rawai about how the roadworks at the Chalong circle has affected their lives in the past three years. It’s been chaotic, time-wasting, dangerous and stressful.
Finally, the loss of road space along the route will restrict local road traffic even more, neutralising any nett gains of the new tram system. Tram rails, in both directions, 21 stations, the overhead walkways (to get people to the sidewalk areas), parking… where is all this going to go? It will chew up limited road space and bring traffic and people even closer together – a recipe for disaster.
Phuket badly needs public transport reform. Recent infrastructure to improve roads, add underpasses and improve existing services has gone part of the way to making life better for locals and tourists.
But this new white elephant completely ignores the real elephant in the room – the intransigent cabal of the taxis and tuk tuks on the island which ‘could’ be the island’s best asset. But instead they are a feared, reviled and a much-discussed tourism killer.
Local people almost completely avoid taxis and tuk tuks (they already know their fares are ridiculously priced when compared to other parts of the country), and tourists use them because there’s not a lot of alternative only to end up with occasional horror stories in social media, complaints to the Tourist Police and a lasting impression of Phuket as an over-priced tourism pearl that’s lost its lustre.
Spending 35 billion baht (let’s spell that out for you – 35,000,000,000 baht) on a shiny new tram system does little, if nothing, to address the island’s key transport issues – better roads and better alternatives for transport in and around tourist zones.
Your comments are welcome on our Facebook page.
Opinion: Sovereignty, rights ignored in airport debacle – The Nation
Thailand could have blood on its hands if it fails to protect a Saudi traveller on her journey to freedom.
The fate of a Saudi woman on her way to Australia, where she has a visa and seeks to obtain asylum, teetered in the balance in Bangkok at press time yesterday. Amid Thailand’s apparent willingness to deport her back to Saudi Arabia, rights lawyers representing her failed to get a Bangkok court to accept an injunction against her repatriation, which could have spelled her doom. Then came an abrupt about-face as the head of Immigration announced that, contrary to his earlier remarks, she would not be deported against her will.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, had barricaded herself in a hotel room near Suvarnabhumi Airport while Thai authorities fumbled over a case that could have grave repercussions for our country. She believed she would be killed if Thailand sent her back to Saudi Arabia, where her family has allegedly subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
According to reports late Sunday, Saudi and Kuwaiti officials seized her as she deplaned at Suvarnabhumi and forcibly confiscated her travel documents. New York-based Human Rights Watch has backed up her claims, though its sources are unclear.
“They took my passport,” al-Qunun was quoted as saying by news agency AFP, adding that her male guardian had filed a complaint in Saudi Arabia that was she was travelling “without his permission”, as Saudi law requires of women.
“My family locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair,” she said.
“I’m 100 per cent sure they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail.”
Thai Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn first told reporters that Qunun was barred from entering Thailand because “she had no other documents such as return airfare or money”.
She insisted she had valid travel papers and was merely in transit through Bangkok en route to Australia, for which she had a visa.
Human Rights Watch was appalled by Thai Immigration’s apparent readiness to accommodate the Saudi authorities. “What country allows diplomats to wander around the closed section of the airport and seize the passports of passengers?” deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson asked, pointing out Saudi Arabia’s horrendous record on rights.
It will indeed be encouraging if the Thai government takes a firm stand in the matter after foreigners overtly trampled our sovereignty. Diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia have gradually improved since the ruinous affair of a Thai stealing gems from the Saudi royal family more than two decades ago. We owe the Saudis nothing. If there is even the slightest possibility that this woman’s life is in danger, Thailand must oppose her repatriation.
The incident comes just three months after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi who was critical of his country’s rulers, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. That case has roiled international opinion.
Thailand cannot afford to be at the centre of another such controversy, even if this one has a far lower profile. But there was Surachate early yesterday saying al-Qunun would soon be on a plane bound for Saudi Arabia.
“It’s a family problem,” he said, sounding devoid of compassion. Surachate appeared not to have heard – or not to care – that a member of her family vowed on record that Qunun would indeed be severely punished on her return, possibly even killed.
This is decidedly not a “family problem”. It is a direct threat to the same fundamental human rights that Thailand has sworn to protect, even if Saudi Arabia does not extend such rights to women.
Al-Qunun has every right to flee harsh treatment at home and seek asylum in a country willing to protect her. Tragedy could ensue simply because, on her way to gaining freedom, she first touched down in Bangkok.
Published originally on The Nation
Top 10 scams in Thailand
Top 10 things NOT to do in Phuket
The Top 10 Beaches in Phuket
PABUK: Latest information on the path of the storm across the Gulf
Phuket vs Penang – The two pearls go head to head
Leo returns to ‘The Beach’
UPDATE: The Hangover – Pattaya
Thailand now in world’s top 100 most expensive places to live for expats
Seven arrested over illegal pre-wedding photo shoots in Phuket
Foreigner woman caught on video spray painting road in Rawai
Foreigners frolicking off Jomtien beach attract police attention
Phuket’s Top 10 Beach Clubs
“Don’t go to Thailand” – another Chinese social media firestorm
“Pabuk” heads towards southern provinces
Beer truck overturns in Rassada, Phuket – VIDEO
Top 10 things NOT to do in Phuket
Real police charge three Filipino women working for ‘fake’ charity in Pattaya
PM Prayut kicks the election can down the road
Bangkok smog: Police on the lookout for dirty exhaust from vehicles
Six metre king cobra caught by rescue workers in Trang – VIDEO
British man pioneers cannabis tom yum, police are not happy
The internet booms and print languishes in 2019 advertising spend
Bangkok smog: Chatuchak school closes for the rest of the week
Phuket house keeper keeps 2,600 meth pills and 3kg of marijuana at house in Rawai
Crisis meetings in Bangkok today over smog solutions
Baby elephant dies from horrific wounds after being caught in hunter’s trap
Bangkok smog: Oil refineries being asked to upgrade quality of diesel
Phuket police launch search for man in Facebook post pointing a gun at his head
Air quality for Thailand – January 16
77 year old Swedish tourist rescued at Patong Beach – VIDEO
PABUK a tropical storm, not a typhoon
Single Use Plastics. The BIG issue for Thai Environment Day.
Annissa Flynn – Pro women’s World Flowboarding Champion
TEST DRIVE GOOLGE TRANSLATE ทดสอบไดรฟ์ GOOGLE TRANSLATE
Phuket’s Tsuanmi Alert System
Canadians will be able to use consular services at the Australian Consulate in Phuket
NO Plastic Bag! @ Central Phuket
Why did so many Chinese passengers die in the boat sinking?
Blue Tree Phuket, a world-class HUGE waterpark
The new Central Phuket: Interview with Central Pattana’s Pakorn Partanapat
The battle of Phuket’s boat shows
Phuket’s beach lifeguard situation is not sustainable
The miracle at Tham Luang Caves
Should Phuket’s beaches be closed until this crocodile captured.
Love Rawai FB page captures the actual crocodile, on video
Phuket12 hours ago
Top 10 things NOT to do in Phuket
Phuket4 days ago
Seven arrested over illegal pre-wedding photo shoots in Phuket
Thailand2 days ago
Thai woman arrested for killing German husband in 10 million baht insurance scam
Thailand3 days ago
A reduction of 100 million+ plastic bags at 7-eleven stores in one month
Pattaya3 days ago
Pattaya ranked fourth healthiest city in the entire world
Thai Life4 days ago
Thailand named in top ten places in the world to retire
Phuket3 days ago
23 Filipino tourists escape serious injury in Bangkok – Phuket bus accident in Chumphon
Phuket2 days ago
Australian woman sends desperate messages from Thai immigration detention