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Pressure from illegal Phuket taxis wins airport reprieve

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Pressure from illegal Phuket taxis wins airport reprieve | The Thaiger

PHUKET: After days of protests by taxi drivers operating under the Mook Andaman Cooperative, officials at Phuket International Airport will allow 25 of the drivers to serve passengers at the airport without further delay.

Airport management, a division of the state enterprise Airports of Thailand (AOT), capitulated yesterday by allowing 25 of the drivers to operate under one of the two taxi companies that have been granted a government concession to serve the airport.

Phuket Land Transport Office Chief Terayout Prasertphol explained, “Mook Andaman will have 25 cars join Phuket Mai Khao Company on the condition that each driver pays a monthly fee of 2,600 baht plus 25 per cent of income earned from fares, and drives either a Toyota Altis or Camry with an engine capacity over 1,600cc.

“If Mook Andaman does not have enough cars that satisfy the legal requirements, we will be flexible and have them present a list of drivers and their vehicles so we can pass that on to Phuket Mai Khao Company for consideration,” he added.

The move to have Mook Andaman’s former “black plate” taxi drivers continue to serve the airport was made in November last year when the AOT allowed 50 drivers to operate under the two legitimate concession holders as a temporary measure until Mook Andaman was granted its own concession (story here).

However, Mook Andaman representatives accused concessionaire Phuket Mai Khao Company of not allowing their drivers to serve the airport as agreed.

The point of contention reportedly was that the vehicles used by Mook Andaman drivers did not satisfy the requirements laid down by law for taxi drivers serving the airport.

Mook Andaman Secretary Ittipol Mektanee told reporters that his drivers had been waiting since last August for AOT to respond to their request to serve passengers at the airport.

“We have been denied the right to work by the AOT staff and by the companies who have gotten concessions at the airport. We want the AOT to clarify what our working rights are,” he said.

Phuket Airport Director Prathuang Sornkham explained on Tuesday that the AOT had decided to delay granting Mook Andaman a concession until the contracts for the two existing concession holders expire in June.

Director Prathuang told the drivers that the AOT review would “be finished as soon as possible.”

Adding fuel to the driver’s ire, however, was silence from the AOT on whether or not the co-op could set up a service counter within the airport terminal.

Tempers also flared on Tuesday after two Mook Andaman drivers were stopped and stripped of their driver’s licenses by airport staff when the drivers were found not to have the required passenger pick-up voucher.

The move only prompted Mook Andaman representatives to ramp up their protests.

The voucher is a standard feature at major airports in Thailand, introduced so taxi counter staff have a record of which taxi drivers serve which passengers at what time, and at which destination the passengers are to be dropped off.

Patcharapol Yimyam, one of the drivers who was stopped, said, “While I was taking a passenger out of the airport, airport staff used a car to block me and asked for my passenger pick-up voucher.

“I didn’t have that voucher, so the staff stopped me and seized my driver’s license. I want to know why they stopped me. I want to see fair treatment of our group,” Mr Patcharapol said.

Now with a stop-gap deal brokered, Mr Terayout said he expected Mook Andaman to have drivers ferrying tourists from the facility by this weekend.

“If Mook Andaman has their list of drivers and vehicles prepared in time, they should be able to have 25 drivers serving the airport again by tomorrow,” he said.

However, the deal may be only a temporary reprieve from further protests.

The 25 names to be provided must already be on the list of 50 drivers who were approved to work at an airport-taxi meeting last November.

Mook Andaman President Songtham Mekmanee explained that only 25 of the drivers named on the list were from his co-operative.

“The others are not our members,” he said.

“I will file a complaint about this problem to the AOT to reconsider the names on the list,” Mr Songtham added.

The Mook Andaman drivers, who illegally served the airport for years, have maintained constant pressure on the airport authorities this week by staging a battery of protests.

The protests came while the heads of major airports throughout the region were in Phuket for the ‘Airports Council International Asia-Pacific regional assembly’, held Monday through yesterday.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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