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Phuket tuk-tuk driver gets suspended sentence for attack on tourist



PHUKET: A Phuket tuk-tuk driver who confessed to assaulting an Egyptian tourist in Patong last week has been sentenced to a three-month suspended prison term and fined 3,000 baht.

Patong Police Deputy Superintendent Kittipong Klaikaew identified the driver as 40-year-old Sirapob Ngamriab.

Patong Police were notified of an assault on a tourist in front of the Jungceylon shopping complex on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Road at about 8pm last Tuesday.

The area, a short distance from the entrance to the Bangla Road night walking street, has been the site of numerous assaults by tuk-tuk drivers against tourists in recent years.

According to the police report, when officers arrived they found 35-year-old Egyptian Ahmed Taha Taha sitting on the busy road, obstructing traffic. He refused to seek medical treatment until he had a chance to give his account of what happened to police through a translator.

Police eventually convinced him to move to the sidewalk. After telling police that he had been struck in the left eyebrow by a tuk-tuk driver, officers escorted him to Patong Hospital, where doctors closed the wound with eight stitches.

From there, he was taken to Patong Police Station to file a report of the incident.

Before the assault, Mr Taha Taha hailed a tuk-tuk to take him and his family back to their accommodations at the Centra Ashlee Patong Hotel, a distance of about one kilometer.

When asked how many people would be travelling, he told the driver “six”; they then agreed on a fare of 300 baht.

But noticing that more than 10 people had piled into the tuk-tuk, Mr Sirapob raised the fare to 400 baht, according to the official report.

An argument ensued, which resulted in Mr Sirapob losing control and striking the Egyptian in the face twice before fleeing on foot, according to the report.

Mr Sirapob came to the police station at about 11:30pm that night to give his version of events.

He told police that Mr Taha Taha refused to pay him 400 baht, berated him and approached him in an aggressive manner. He confessed to losing his temper and striking Mr Taha Taha before running away quickly to avoid retribution from the tourist’s family members.

At the police station, Mr Sirapob apologized to Mr Taha Taha, offering to pay him compensation.

The Egyptian accepted the apology, refusing to accept any compensation. He also said he did not want to press any charges against Mr Sirapob, Lt Col Kittipong told the Gazette.

However, as assault against a tourist is a non-compoundable offense under the Thai Criminal Code, it cannot be privately resolved between the parties concerned.

Mr Sirapob was thus charged with assault. He confessed and was sentenced by Phuket Provincial Court to three months in prison, suspended for two years, and paid a fine of 3,000-baht.

Lt Col Kittipong said Patong Police were constantly urging tuk-tuk and taxi drivers to exercise patience and restraint when disputes with tourists occur.

“We always have meetings with taxi operators, asking them to exercise self-control. Some of them are not very well-educated; they do not quite understand that when they harm tourists, they will have to suffer the consequences, or that it will damage the tourism industry that sustains them,” he said.

— Atchaa Khamlo


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