Phuket Opinion: Hailing a new era

Prasat Pechwang, 56, is a Phuket native. He earned a BA from King Mongkut’s University of Technology in North Bangkok, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He started working at Saudi Oger Company Ltd in 1981 and moved to We-Ef Lighting Company Ltd in 1987. He has been a taxi driver with Phuket Taxi Meter Service Company Limited for ten years.

Here, he talks about overhauling Phuket’s taxi system.

PHUKET: Every taxi in Phuket should be metered, and fare rates should be higher than they are now (story here). This would help eliminate violence in the taxi business, and also improve tourists’ taxi experiences in Phuket.

Raising taxi fares will help bring taxi drivers’ earnings in line with the cost of living, and by doing so, steer them from the temptation of overcharging customers.

I have heard a lot of stories about drivers who don’t turn their meters on. There are a couple of reasons why they don’t.

The first reason is connected to the cost of living in Phuket, which is higher than in other provinces. At the same time, gasoline costs are constantly going up. Not only that, but Phuket is a fairly hilly island, and going up hills increases fuel consumption.

With the current fare rates, it is difficult for drivers to earn enough to provide for their families and save money for the future.

The second reason is that non-metered, green-license-plate taxis charge a higher fare than we do for going the same distance. Some metered drivers feel this is unfair, so they don’t turn on their meters.

Therefore raising fares would encourage drivers to turn their meters on.

At present, the first two kilometers is set at 50 baht per kilometer. Then, up to 22 kilometers, the rate is seven baht per kilometer. In excess of 22 kilometers, the charge is six baht per kilometer.

In my opinion, the first two kilometers set at 50 baht per kilometer is fair enough, but we should raise the other two rates. Up to 22 kilometers, the rate should be set at 11 baht per kilometer and in excess of 22 kilometers the charge should be 10 baht per kilometer. This is the same rate metered taxis on Koh Samui use.

The next thing we need to do is put a meter in every taxi on the island. We should not have both metered and unmetered taxis. We must all be on the same footing.

Right now, the airport is the only place metered taxis can park to wait for customers. We can’t drive around the island looking for passengers because influential taxi operators in other areas may threaten or assault us if we do so.

This has happened in the past and it has caused metered drivers to be fearful.

The threat of violence keeps us from providing service all over the island and prevents us from driving around to pick up passengers on the street.

Raising rates and making every taxi metered would go a long way toward eliminating dangerous friction between drivers.

We will also need strict enforcement by police and officials to make sure everyone follows the rules.

Phuket should be like Bangkok and Singapore, where taxis must be metered and can operate freely around the city, and limousine taxis are restricted to serving hotels and their guests.

In fact, it’s not just Bangkok and Singapore that have got it right. “Metered-taxis only” is now the standard around the world. The meter determines the fare, not the driver. This is how it should be.

I’m keenly aware of how tourists feel. When drivers don’t turn on meters or charge a flat rate, tourists can feel cheated.

Taxis are the first thing that tourists encounter when they arrive. Let’s make sure that we give them a good first impression.

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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