PHUKET: In their first official visit to Phuket, the British, Canadian and Dutch Ambassadors to Thailand today plainly described their chief concerns about the scams and cheats continuing to plague Phuket’s tourism industry.
Speaking with Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut at Provincial Hall this afternoon, ambassadors Mark Kent of the UK, Philip Calvert of Canada and Joan Boer of the Netherlands focused on why tuk-tuk and taxi drivers are continuing to charge tourists in Phuket higher fares than are charged elsewhere in the country.
“They are very concerned about why taxis are so expensive compared with other tourist areas in Thailand,” Governor Maitri said.
The governor explained to the ambassadors the steps Phuket authorities have taken in recent months in an attempt to regulate taxi drivers.
Phuket Land Transport Office [PLTO] chief Teerayut Prasertpol, who was present at the meeting explained further, “The PLTO is trying to get metered taxi drivers to charge by the meter, but the drivers do not want to because if they charged only by the meter they would not make enough as a living.”
“This has also deterred any private investors from even wanting to start a metered taxi service company,” Gov Maitri added.
British Ambassador Kent also introduced the governor to the website Phukettuktuks.com, which lists incident after incident of tourists in Phuket being cheated, scammed and even violently attacked by tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.
“The police are doing their best, but there is a serious shortage of officers in Phuket,” Gov Maitri replied.
Ambassador Boer specifically cited his concern about jet-ski operators keeping tourists’ passports as a condition of renting jet-skis.
However, Phuket Marine Office chief Phuripat Theerakulpisut replied that keeping customers’ passports was a practice of the past.
“They no longer do this, and I passed that message along to Ambassador Boer,” Governor Maitri explained.
In addition to sharing his concern over the fares charged by tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in Phuket, Canadian Ambassador Calvert also raised the issue of the media using photos of dead bodies and photos of passports in news stories.
Despite the contentious nature of the chief concerns discussed today, Ambassador Kent was supportive of the Thai government’s efforts to resolve Phuket’s perennial problems.
“Most tourists who come to Phuket enjoy their holidays and have a good time,” he said.
He also praised the governor’s willingness to work with embassy officials in tackling the major issues affecting Phuket.
As a closing note, Ambassador Kent also praised the government’s efforts in raising the number of motorbike riders and passengers in Phuket who wear crash helmets.
“I think the government has done a great job in getting people to wear helmets – you can see it just driving around the island,” he said.
— Chutharat Plerin
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