PHUKET: An Australian tourist filed a police complaint yesterday alleging that he was severely beaten after confronting a taxi driver about a sexual comment made to his girlfriend.
Accompanied by the girl and an Australian consul, Peter Hulands filed the complaint with Patong Police shortly being released from hospital.
He suffered a broken nose and a shattered eye socket in the violence.
Maj Somsak Tongkliang of Patong Police explained that in his complaint, Mr Hulands said he and his girlfriend were walking past the taxi driver at about 2:30am on Tuesday near the eastern end of Bangla Road when the altercation occurred.
He alleged that the driver, 29-year-old Sathit Nuyuphai, made some comment “sexual in nature” about a hat that Mr Hulands’ girlfriend was wearing, and a fight ensued.
On her Facebook page, Kitty Cardway said the attack was carried out by “five Thai tuk tuk drivers”.
Her Facebook also shows she is very fond of felines, and features a photo of her sporting a novelty hat imitating a large cat on her head.
Mr Sathit, however, today denied the accusation and gave a different account of events.
“He seemed to have had an argument with his girlfriend, then crossed the road,” Mr Sathit said.
“I asked him ‘Taxi boss?'” Mr Sathit said. “Instead of answering me, he asked ‘Can you speak English?’ Then I said ‘yes’ and he swore at me, so I swore back.”
Mr Sathit alleged that Mr Hulands grabbed him by the neck.
Mr Sathit said he punched Mr Hulands, who then walked away from the fight.
“Later, he came back looking drunk with two friends, one Thai and one farang [westerner]. He kneed my friend, then we got into a fight,” Mr Sathit said.
Mr Sathit said one of his fingers was broken during the fight.
Patong Police told the Phuket Gazette that while brawling Mr Hulands fell down, hitting his face on the ground.
Some officers at the station noted that it was not the first time the Australian had been involved in a violent confrontation with local people in Patong.
The Gazette has yet to be informed of what, if any, action the police might take in response to the complaint.
Ms Cardway reported that Mr Hulands will need to consult specialists over the extent of his injuries, and that he may need reconstructive surgery.
The news of yet another tourist suffering a severe beating by Patong taxi drivers comes as Phuket’s top policeman is trying to establish a “Safety Zone” in the crime-ridden municipality. The zone is to be heavily monitored by public access CCTV.
It also comes amid pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office – and specifically from Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung – for Phuket officials to resolve long-standing “problems” with local taxi drivers in Phuket.
In September last year, a gang of taxi drivers camped outside an upscale resort on Phuket’s west coast beat a local driver with an iron bar while a pair of horrified elderly Australian tourists were still sitting inside the vehicle.
Earlier that same month, German national Kurt Trotnow was left in intensive care fighting for his life after being beaten up by a mob of Patong tuk-tuk drivers for refusing to pay a fare of 200 baht (approx US$6.70).
And last month, an Egyptian tourist suffered deep lacerations to his face in an altercation with a tuk-tuk driver in front of the Jungceylon shopping complex, a site that has become notorious for taxi gangs involved in assaults against foreign tourists.
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