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Phuket Provincial Transportation Office brokers breakthrough deal for taxis

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: A breakthrough arrangement with banks and insurance companies means that all taxi drivers in Phuket have until February 28 to become legally registered – or face a 2,000-baht fine every time they are caught carrying passengers.

The deal, brokered through the Phuket Provincial Transportation Office (PPTO), was announced at a meeting with illegal taxi drivers at the Amora Beach Resort Phuket in Bang Tao on Wednesday.

PPTO chief Teerayut Prasertpol explained that one of the biggest obstacles for many illegal drivers was changing the registration of their vehicles from “private” to “public” so they can be registered with the PPTO as taxis.

“Drivers claimed banks and finance companies required deposits of up to 10,000 baht in order to release the registration books which they hold as collateral for loans taken out to buy cars,” he said.

The drivers need the books in their hands in order to present them to the PPTO so officials can physically register the change from private to public.

Many banks and finance companies do not readily hand car registration books back to people who have taken out loans to buy cars as it is the only collateral the companies have in ensuring the vehicles remain in their legal possession.

Mr Teerayut raised this issue with Land Transport Department Director-General Somchai Siriwattanachoke in December.

The result was a meeting with representatives from Thanachart Bank headquarters in Bangkok, which provides financing for about half the 2,882 illegal taxis operating in Phuket.

“Thanachart Bank has agreed to waive the deposit for drivers who give permission for the bank to hand the registration book directly to the PPTO in order to change the registration type. This saves the taxi drivers from having to come up with the money needed for the deposit,” Mr Teerayut explained.

“Other financial services companies are taking care of their customers in the same way. This is a big help to the taxi drivers who want to get green license plates [have their vehicles registered as legal taxis],” he added.

INSURANCE

Another huge obstacle in encouraging Phuket taxi drivers to become legal was the hike in insurance premiums they will need to pay in order to comply with compulsory insurance requirements.

To this, Thanachart Bank Phuket branch Deputy Sales Director Thawatchai Bamrungchuer explained that Thanachart Bank had also launched a campaign offering discounted insurance packages.

“The PPTO asked us to help solve the taxi problem with illegal taxis, and we agreed. We now have a special promotion for Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi,” he said.

Mr Thawatchai stressed the importance of comprehensive insurance, noting that drivers using personal cars as taxis would be insured for the people in the car, but not for damage to the car itself.

The bank, as the insurance provider, would not assume any responsibility for the car in that case, he said.

“If you buy insurance for a public service vehicle, both people and the car are covered. And it is better for Phuket’s tourism image. Taxi drivers and passengers will have more confidence on the road,” he added.

NO LENIENCY

Chief Teerayut believes that not all illegal taxi drivers will be able to complete the registration process in time, but he offered them no leniency.

Even if the owners display the mandatory stickers on both sides of their cars – bearing the taxi number, the name of the owner in Thai and English, and the complaint hotline number 1158 – any drivers found operating a vehicle as a taxi without the green plates after February 28 will be at the mercy of the Phuket Police.

“From March 1, illegal taxi drivers will no longer have the protection of the PPTO, even if they have the proper stickers.

“Traffic police will fine them 2,000 baht each time they are caught, and this is out of our hands,” he said.

He added that the PLTO has a list of “every black taxi driver service on the island.”

Phuket Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada supported the PPTO chief, saying, “If anyone has any information about illegal taxis still operating on the island, let me know. I will go after them.”

THE ROAD AHEAD

All is not bleak for drivers who may be struggling. They can still apply for green plate registration. That deadline has been extended until April 30, Mr Teerayut said.

However, he noted, “If they cannot get a green plate by the end of April, then even if they have registered with us, they will no longer be considered. All the lists will be deleted.”

He reminded the drivers that having a green plate benefited them above all.

“It is your permanent career, and it is legal,” he said.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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Phuket

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siangtai/Newshawk Phuket

A newborn baby was found on a bench at a neighborhood by Phuket’s Patong Road. The baby boy was wrapped in cloth and left inside a reusable shopping bag. The bag also had a bottle of milk, diapers and clothing.

A woman walking by early in the morning heard the baby crying. She followed the cries and found the baby on the bench. She called police and calmed the baby, feeding him milk that was left in the bag.

Police took the baby to the Patong Hospital. The baby, about a week old, is in good health, police say.

“Police and rescue workers together rushed to the scene and called Patong Hospital to have a medical team meet us there … This baby is healthy and does not appear to have suffered any injuries. He is now safe and being cared for at Patong Hospital.”

Police are reviewing surveillance camera footage to see if they can track down the mother, or whoever left the baby behind.

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Visa

Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations

The Thaiger

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Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns. It was predictable and many people, despite months of warnings, have left their visa extensions to the last minute. Meanwhile Thai immigration don’t appear to be making the process easy as The Thaiger has received multiple comments from foreigners visiting the various immigration offices around the country and encountering ‘local’ applications of the published guidelines and, in some cases, demands for additional paperwork.

A note to The Thaiger, we won’t publish the person’s name, from Phuket where a person applying for an extension to their visa has been given something less than the 30 days promised by the government.

“On Monday Phuket Immigration was only giving 14 day ‘conditional’ VISA extensions from the date of application, not from September 26. They announced this was to allow time to “investigate and verify” the need for the extension.

So basically we paid 1900 baht for a 14 day extension. After announcing this many people left as many que numbers were called and nobody came up. They said if that were the case they would come back later in the week.

So we have to go back on October 5 (or a few days later is ok they announced) to see if we’re approved for the 30 day extension from September 26. If not we would be immediately “overstaying” at 500 baht/day.

Thank you
C

Another writer, speaking about the same matter, said that they were still being charged the non-refundable 1900 baht fee for the 2 week extension….

“They still collected the non refundable 1900 baht fee.”

Yesterday a person, who had been living in Bangkok under the auspices of the visa amnesty on a lapsed Non Immigrant B (Business) visa, ended up visiting three different offices to get his paperwork sorted out. This is after first contacting immigration by phone to confirm the particular office to attend. He had a letter from the US Embassy explaining that he would be unable to return to the US at this stage due to lack of flights and the current Covid-19 situation in the US. He made an appointment online, as instructed, and it still didn’t go very smoothly.

The instructions he received….

If your Visa was cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, and you are currently under the amnesty grace period set to expire September 26, you will need to schedule an appointment online to queue in with the Immigration Division 1 at Muang Thong Thani (near Don Mueang Airport). You will need…
  • Online appointment with Immigration Division 1
  • Passport
  • TM 6 Departure Card
  • 1,900 Baht fee for short term extension
  • Letter from embassy specifically stating inability to leave Thailand due to lack of repatriation flights and or a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in one’s home nation.
  • US Embassy letter request can be made online here
  • Portrait photo to affix to short term extension application 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm in dimension

After going to Counter K and Counter J (2 separate buildings), he ended up being asked to go to the Chaeng Wattana office instead, and then was shuffled off to yet another office. Additional paperwork was also requested, beyond what had been asked for. After nearly a full day he ended up with a visa stamp for a 30 day extension in his visa.

He also noted that there is NO ATM around the Mueang Thong Thani immigration offices and our reader had to take a 60 baht motorcycle taxi ride to get cash.

Probably worse, he said that the Immigration officials (clearly overworked at this time), were “extremely rude” and that the facilities (apparently temporary) are “less-than-adequate”, especially the Counter K, which was basically a parking garage with seats… no fans.

Additionally, contrary to the clear advice on the Thai Immigration website, most people getting their extensions were from the date of their visit and NOT the end of the September 26 amnesty.

Phuket Immigration handing out 'conditional' 14 day visas, pending investigations | News by The Thaiger

The moral of this tiny microcosm of stories is that it’s probably the busiest week for Thai immigration in history. The officials will be stressed and stretched, there will be long queues and there will be confusion. We should also mention that we’ve had a few foreigners contact us saying that things went very smoothly for their extensions, so well done to all concerned in those examples!

Be prepared, take ALL your paperwork, expect to asked to produce more evidence, make sure you have all your photos and copies of your passport, TM 6 departure card, plus filled-in applications before you head to the Immigration offices.

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