PHUKET TOWN: An agreement was reached yesterday to lift restrictions on motorbike taxi licenses granted by Patong municipality following a peaceful rally staged by unregistered operators at Provincial Hall. Over 350 taxi drivers rode in a motorcade from Patong to Phuket Town shortly before noon in a show of unity to have the current licensing scheme opened to non-Patong residents. Prasert Phetgaew, a representative of the group, met privately with Vice Governor Vongsak Swasdipanich and district and police officials to discuss a proposal to relax the residency requirement for motorbike taxi drivers and brief them on verbal altercations that have occurred between license holders and independent drivers. Patong municipality had capped the number of motorbike taxi permits at 400, all of which had been granted to residents. Drivers pay a 1,050 baht annual permit fee and a one-time fee of 8,000 baht for an official green identification vest. One protester who spoke with the Gazette on condition of anonymity outside Provincial Hall said groups of licensed motorbike taxi drivers have threatened unregistered hacks who compete for fares. He said such threats have increased in frequency on Patong streets in recent weeks. Another protester reported that licensed drivers have offered to sell him their vests for as much as 45,000 baht. According to a representative of the vice governor’s office, municipal and district officials have agreed to accept motorbike taxi license applications from non-resident drivers on December 22 and 23. No other details of the agreement were made available.
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