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Taxi man “Brother Pom’ plays down DSI allegations of queue jumping

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Taxi man “Brother Pom’ plays down DSI allegations of queue jumping | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The leader of the Central Festival Phuket taxi group, who stands accused by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of queue hopping, told officers not to worry about how he runs the shopping mall’s taxi network.

“This is not a big thing to focus on… I would like to let the DSI know that they don’t need to worry about me taking advantage of my members. We live like brothers. I have never, and will never jump the queue,” Pom Sukkasem said.

Lt Col Somboon Sarasit, head of the DSI’s Bureau of Special Crime Unit 3, explained on Tuesday that he had received reports from taxi operators at Central Festival that Mr Pom was taking advantage of the queuing system.

“Mr Pom took advantage of the other taxis operators by skipping the queue. We learned about this problem after speaking with Central Festival management, Phuket Land Transportation Office officers and members of the taxi group,” Lt Col Somboon said.

The accusations come after Mr Pom returned from court in Bangkok, claiming that the extortion charges against him were not being pursued by the prosecutor (story here).

At that time Lt Col Somboon clarified, “The prosecutor ordered investigators to get more evidence to support the extortion charge. That does not mean the case has been dropped.”

Mr Pom explained to the Phuket Gazette yesterday how the taxi queuing system worked in the past, and why he had more slots than others.

“First off, I have one slot and my wife also has one. But more importantly, we have an agreement with all the members of the taxis that if they need a loan to pay the queuing fee or for something else, they can use their queue spot as collateral,” Mr Pom said.

Queuing fees are 2,400* baht a year.

“All loans, given at zero per cent interest, must be paid back in three months,” He said. “If they aren’t, the driver looses his spot in the queuing system.”

When someone is looking for a short-term loan, Mr Pom says he is usually the person who gives them money.

“However, that agreement is part of our old system, and will not be valid once we, the Andaman Taxi Service Co-operative, become legal,” he added.

The new system will only allow one car per person and only one queue space per car, Col Somboon said earlier this week.

Central Festival Operations Manager Preecha Ritthiratree expressed concern over whether or not the taxis operating at the shopping mall would all be legal by the November 30 deadline.

However, Mr Pom assured the Gazette that there would be no issues.

“The Andaman Taxi Service Co-operative will finish the registration process by November 30, and we will have 100 legal taxis operating at Central Festival at that point,” he said.

Currently, 179 taxis are operating at the mall as part of the group, 100 of which are legal, Mr Pom explained. Of the rest, 29 are in the process of getting their green license plates and becoming legal, the remaining 50 are not.

“Once our co-operative becomes legal, then none of the illegal taxis can service Central,” Mr Pom said.

*It was originally reported that the fee was 1,200 baht a year. The error is regretted.

— Saran Mitrarat

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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Bangkok

Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister

Caitlin Ashworth

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Now they’re coming… Special Tourist Visa flight set for Tuesday – Tourism and Sports Minister | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Suhyeon Choi

After much confusion and a few apparent ‘misunderstandings’, Chinese tourists on the Special Tourist Visa will actually arrive on October 20 and 26. At least that’s what Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn says, according to the Bangkok Post. The first group is said to arrive 4 days from now in Bangkok (if they actually applied for the visa this time).

Reports circulated for weeks about a flight of 120 to 150 tourists set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 from Guangzhou, China. An announcement was made shortly after the flight was due to arrive with Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn saying “administrative issues” had caused the delay.

It was later reported that no one from Guangzhou had actually applied for the visa and it was all just a misunderstanding after the Tourism Authority of Thailand reportedly passed off a list of those “interested” in the visa as actual applications.

This time, the Post is reporting the first group of 120 tourists from Guangzhou will arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday. Another group of 120 tourists, also from Guangzhou, will arrive on October 26, but the Post didn’t say where that flight will land.

It’s apparently the same group that was planned to arrive in Phuket on October 8, but the minister claims the trip was postponed due to the Vegetarian Festival which is planned to run until October 25. Both the Phuket governor and National Security Council secretary general had claimed the festival was the reason for the delayed flight and was intended to ease fears of Covid-19 for the festival-goers coming in from the rest of Thailand.

Even though the new long stay tourist visa is good for 90 days, and can be renewed twice, the tourists will only stay in the country for 30 days, with 14 of those days in quarantine. Phiphat says the Tourism Authority of Thailand will find activities to keep the tourists occupied while in quarantine.

The visitors will be the first international tourists after a 6 month ban to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Thai officials have been discussing plans for months about how to safely reopen borders to revive the country’s economy which is heavily driven by the tourism industry. Officals are now talking about cutting down the mandatory time for quarantine from 14 days to 7 days to help entice people to visit.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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