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Taxi, tuk-tuk co-ops blame “unfair rules’ for problems

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Taxi, tuk-tuk co-ops blame “unfair rules’ for problems | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Groups of tuk-tuk and taxi operators in Phuket blame “unfair regulations” as the underlying cause of most problems faced by tourists who use Phuket’s public transport services.

The accusations were made during a meeting of senior government officials, including Government Spokesperson Prompong Nopparit, at Phuket Provincial Hall on April 27.

Tuk-tuk representative Darun Suksai, the “president” of a consortium of nine tuk-tuk “co-operatives” operating in Phuket, told the meeting there were more than 10,000 tuk-tuks and taxis – legal and illegal – operating in Phuket.

He blamed the illegal operators for the horror stories of tuk-tuk drivers accosting, attacking and ripping off tourists.

“I guarantee that they were not any members of our network. All our tuk-tuks are legal and I always check on the actions of our members,” he said.

To redress the problems, Mr Darun called on Mr Prompong and other relevant officials to listen seriously to the concerns voiced by all tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in Phuket.

This was the only way to solve the transport problems that had been plaguing Phuket for more than a decade, he said.

Mr Darun said of more than 1,000 tuk-tuks in Phuket, 600 were designed to be boarded from the side and all are members of his network. Another 400, which board from the rear, are individually owned.

Nui Kawiset, of the 300-member strong Samakkee tuk-tuk cooperative formed in 2009, said this regulation affected 70 side-entry tuk-tuks in that co-op that were brought in from other provinces.

“We applied for all these vehicles to be registered as tuk-tuks after the new rule was introduced. It costs too much – about 100,000 baht per vehicle – to convert them. So we have to rent tuk-tuks from other operators at 500 baht a day, or 15,000 baht a month,” he said.

CONCESSION DEPRESSION

Nikom Panmee, representing one of the cooperatives that has a concession to operate 180 limousines at Phuket International Airport, blamed the contract with airport operator Airports of Thailand (AOT), a public organization, for being too costly to his members.

“We have served the airport for a long time, but the contract is not fair. Our current concession, which we signed in 2009, lasts three years. In the second year our payments to AOT increased by 10%, and again by 10% in the third year,” he said.

“During the last year of the contract we have to pay 1.7 million baht monthly to AOT. We have asked the airport to reduce the concession fee since 1970. We have also complained to the government and its relevant departments, such as the Ministry of Transport, but we have never received a response.

“The current concession expires on June 30 this year. We don’t know how much the fee will increase after then – that’s up to AOT,” Mr Nikom said.

One airport limousine representative said the high concession fee of 1.4mn baht a month for the co-op he represented boiled down to 13,000 baht being required from each of the 220 vehicles within his co-op.

“We have calculated our expenses. We cannot live on this anymore,” said Mr Nikom.

His organization was well aware of the illegal “black plate” taxis serving passengers at the airport who pay no fees whatsoever, he said.

“We can accept that, but the airport needs to reduce our fee,” he said, adding that if it does not a protest might be inevitable.

“We have been trying to do everything possible to negotiate a more equitable fee, but without success. So if needed, come June 30, as a last resort we will do [what we need to do] by taking our people to force the airport,” Mr Nikom warned.

BLACK PRIDE

Pom Sukkasem, “president” of a group of taxi drivers who operate out of Central Festival Phuket, said, “We have 179 cars with ‘black plates’ [standard cars being illegally operated as taxis] and our alliance with other operators brings the total number of cars [that he represents] to more than 500.

“I”m attending the meeting because I would like to know if there are any policies to solve our problem,” he said.

Simply ridding the island of an estimated 10,000 “black plate” taxi operators would affect thousands of families, up to about 50,000 people in total, who rely on that income, he said.

His organization has fare rates plainly marked on boards for passengers to see before hiring the vehicle, Mr Pom explained.

“And we always stick to the fare, even after midnight. We have not received any complaints for eight years,” he said.

SPREAD THE WEALTH

The pleas for concern found support with Phuket Administration Organization President (OrBorJor) Paiboon Upatising.

“Standard fare rates need to be set for the whole island, and each group of drivers must be involved in setting these fares,” said Mr Paiboon

Premium fare rates for travel after midnight would need to be considered, he said.

“The airport also needs to reduce its concession fees, because they are too high and drive up the cost of everything. They are making more than 100 million baht a year and their staff get nine-month bonuses,” Mr Paiboon added.

MORE MEETINGS

Phuket Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada drew the meeting to a close, saying, “First, we need to invite airport representatives to discuss reduction of concession fees and report the results to Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha.

“Second, Phuket has many taxi groups – both legal and illegal. We will look at what they need,” he added.

“Reports of taxi drivers assaulting tourists is ruining our tourism image. I left Phuket 11 years ago. Since my return, the problem seems to have worsened. Foreign investors always ask me about this problem and when it will be fixed,” Vice Governor Chamroen said.

“Our priority is to have the various groups of taxi driver identify their problems and send representatives to discuss them. Then we can work together to find solutions,” he said.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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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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