Taxi, tuk-tuk drivers block road in protest

KATA: A mob of 200 tuk-tuk and taxi drivers this morning blocked Koktanode Rd to protest safari tour companies depriving them of customers. The mob gathered at about 7 am near the junction with Patak Rd and demanded that four safari companies – Siam Safari, Island Safari, Southern Eco and Amazing Bhukit – continue to honor a verbal agreement reached eight months ago to use tuk-tuks and taxis to carry customers between hotels and the safari companies. Although all four safari firms initially refused to negotiate, the protest disbanded at 1 pm after Pol Col Sati Malakanont, Superintendent of Chalong Police Station, arranged a meeting between the Kata-Karon Tuk-Tuk and Taxi Drivers’ Association and the tour companies, with himself and Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi acting as mediators. Protest leader Attaporn Tuneakworrachai said, “We used to take customers to the tour companies and back for 300 baht. But their businesses have grown and they now have their own transport for customers. “This has cut our income, but they have rejected all our requests to continue providing the service.” Tanawat Pajantabutra, Manager of Siam Safari, said, “I think this protest gives Phuket tourism a bad image and may also have a bad effect on the livelihood of people in the Karon area because it may scare off tourists. “Our company is currently making only a little profit. If we let taxis or tuk-tuks carry our customers, we will lose money. We can’t agree with them.” However, by the end of the meeting the parties had come to a new verbal agreement. Col Sati said that hotels in Kata-Karon would be advised that they must bar safari company vehicles from picking up guests, and must organize round-trip transport for guests. The vehicles used to transfer guests must belong to the hotel. If a hotel does not have enough vehicles, it must use local taxis or tuk-tuks. Col Sati will tomorrow issue a notice to hotels in the area laying out the details of the agreement.

Phuket News
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