AO MAKHAM: About 40 tuk tuk drivers from Phuket Town gathered in front of the gates of the deep-sea port this morning in protest at the apparent unwillingness of port authorities to allow them inside to pick up some of the 4,000 American sailors disembarking at the port on Monday. Asin Arammethappongsa, manager of the port, told the Gazette that the protest started after Ao Makham tuk tuk and taxi drivers accused a Phuket Town driver of mishandling his customers, leaving a group of sailors stranded after taking their money. The protest ended around 1 pm after discussions between local authorities and the two groups of drivers reached an interim compromise. It was agreed that whenever a warship docks at the deep-sea port, drivers from Phuket Town will have equal rights to get into the port, picking up passengers on a first-in, first-out basis. In the past, the town drivers were allowed into the port only after all the Ao Makham drivers had already picked up fares. The new agreement will also apply to tour boats and cruise liners coming into the port, though demand from passengers of these vessels is much lower than that from the big crews of U.S. Navy ships, so there is not much business for anyone. Further discussions will determine whether the rules will be altered later on. One possibility being discussed is that the order of entry to the port on days when warships are berthed there will be decided by drawing numbers from a hat.
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