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Army protection from mafia gives Phuket airport bus owner confidence to drive to Karon



PHUKET: The Phuket Airport Express Bus is prepared to push through Patong as its owner looks to roll out a new final stop in Karon by mid-August.

Airport Express Bus owner Prakob Panyawai is working out the final details of the new route, which will terminate at Karon Municipality. The airport bus was initially planned to run to Kata-Karon, but fear of violent reprisals from local tuk-tuk and taxi drivers necessitated scaling back the route to terminate in Patong, Mr Prakob noted earlier this year (story here).

The news of the public transport breakthrough follows a meeting between Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) officers, Mr Prakob and Col Somchai Ponatong of the Army’s 41st Military Circle.

“Col Somchai promised that he would ensure the safety of our drivers and passengers. He made it clear that we didn’t have to worry about violent attacks from tuk-tuk cartels or the taxi mafia,” Mr Prakob told the Phuket Gazette.

“We are also determining, from our past statistics, when the demand for the service will be lower, so we know when we will be able to use vans instead of buses.

“At this stage, we cannot afford to send the big bus to Karon every time.”

The idea to use vans for the extended route to Karon was announced last month (story here) after an Army-bolstered campaign battled illegal “mafia-style” taxi groups on the island (story here).

Mr Prakob also mentioned that he is waiting to launch the service after receiving final approval from the Airports of Thailand (AoT) to open an Airport Express Bus counter on the first floor of Phuket International Airport.

— Saran Mitrarat


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