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Alleged extortionist re-elected to run Phuket taxi group

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Alleged extortionist re-elected to run Phuket taxi group | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: “Brother Pom” was re-elected to head the Central Festival Phuket taxi group yesterday, despite facing charges of extortion and using violence to force member-drivers to make payments.

The election was part of a move to restructure the taxi rank at Central Festival, the latest step in a campaign to eradicate taxi mafia from Phuket which has the full support of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) and the Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO) (story here).

“We want Central Festival to be a model of taxi management for Phuket,” said Maj Natapol Ditsayatham, the DSI Chief Investigator for Phuket. “We want every driver to be able to work freely without worrying about the mafia.”

At the meeting today, drivers rallied behind 42-year-old Pom Sukkasam, who was arrested on Sunday along with his brother (story here).

Both men were handed three charges of extortion, and both men deny them.

“I voted for Mr Pom because he is not guilty [of the extortion charges]. He takes care of us like a big brother, and he wants to improve taxi services and working conditions,” Booncherd Saekoo, a member of the taxi group, told the Phuket Gazette.

“Almost all of us respect him and like his ideas on how to improve our working conditions,” Mr Booncherd said.

Mr Booncherd explained that the fees collected by Mr Pom were reasonable: 200 baht a month for all members, and an additional daily fee of 10 baht a day for legal taxi drivers or 20 baht for illegal taxi drivers.

“That money is used to help members when they get sick or are in need,” Mr Booncherd explained.

When facing charges in Bangkok, Mr Pom maintained his innocence, insisting that the complaint was filed against him by a member of the group that did not support initiatives to legalize all taxis operating at the shopping mall.

“I have been pushing to make all the taxis at Central Festival legal, but this guy didn’t like it,” he said.

During the meeting today when Mr Pom was re-elected, Central Festival Phuket Operations Division manager Preecha Ritthiratree made it clear that all taxis operating at the shopping mall must be fully legal by November 30.

“All taxis should complete registration before the high season begins,” said Mr Preecha.

The November deadline pushed by Central runs far ahead of the PLTO extended deadline, which asks that all taxis be registered by the end of February 2014.

In addition, the Central taxi group was asked to arrange themselves as a formal co-operative by the end of the month.

“They need to make all necessary arrangements by September 30. This includes creating a member list with detailed personal information of the drivers, a photo of the driver and cars that meet the legal standards to be operated as a taxi (story here), Chief Transport Technician of PLTO Jaturong Kaewkasi said.

— Saran Mitrarat

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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