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Tuk-tuks blockade US military in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The future of Phuket as a rest and relaxation destination for US Navy ships is in jeopardy following a blockade of the access road at the Phuket Deep Sea Port by taxi drivers demanding sailors use their service instead of a free transport service provided by the US military.

Details of what transpired last night have yet to be fully confirmed, but sources told the Gazette this morning that the blockade lasted several hours and was only broken up around midnight following negotiations between the drivers and police, local government and military negotiators.

The stranded sailors were aboard the US Navy vessels USS Curts and USS Vandegrift as well as the US Coast Guard Cutter Mellon. The vessels will be in Phuket from June 12 to 20, with a staggered arrival and departure schedule.

Top local officials were immediately notified of the blockade, which lasted from about 9pm until midnight.

The protesters, which included a number of unregistered ‘black plate’ taxi drivers, set up the blockade when they noticed sailors inside the Deep Sea Port security gate boarding passenger vans bound for Patong.

The drivers were apparently angry that the sailors were boarding passenger vans provided for them free of charge by a private firm that has a contract with the US Navy to provide support services for visiting ships.

In the past, the sailors were taken to Patong in large air-conditioned coaches.

The appearance of the passenger vans in their place infuriated the tuk-tuk drivers, who thought their ‘turf’ was being infringed upon. A false rumor circulated among the taxi drivers that the sailors were paying 200 baht a head to board the vans, which in fact were provided free-of-charge, just as the buses were in the past.

Part of the problem may have arisen because the new port manager had failed to notify the tuk-tuk drivers in advance of the change, the source said.

A source in the Royal Thai Navy responsible for security at Phuket Deep Sea Port had a somewhat different version of events. He told the Gazette under condition of anonymity that as many as 500 tuk-tuks, ‘black plate’ taxis and vans, all desperate for low-season fares, converged at the Deep Sea Port at the same time to try and collect passengers numbering only about 300.

The blockade was more of a traffic jam than an organized blockade, he said.

Preechavude ‘Prab’ Keesin, president of the newly formed Patong Taxi Federation (PTF), said that members of his association were not among the drivers involved in the alleged protest.

Our members wouldn’t do such a thing,” he said.

A source in the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization confirmed that ‘local taxi drivers’ did in fact blockade the access road until about midnight, at which time the dispute was settled by negotiation.

Chairat Khumban, secretary of Wichit Mayor Kreetar Saetan, said the blockade was ended after the drivers agreed with military, police and Wichit Municipality negotiators to go back to an old agreement allowing the local taxis access to low-ranking US military personnel while only officers could take advantage of the free van service provided by an outside contractor.

A high-ranking US Navy officer attending a welcome dinner put on by the Phuket branch of the US Navy League in Patong last night was reportedly furious at the security breach when informed by telephone.

His crew had been on active duty in the Persian Gulf and hadn’t been ashore for 97 days, he said.

The Phuket visit was a last-minute change from the originally scheduled visit to Singapore.

We would obviously never have a problem like this in Singapore,” the officer was quoted as saying.

Phuket City Police this morning said the duty officer at the time did not visit the protest site and that no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the incident.

A source told the Gazette the incident could place Phuket’s role as an R&R and resupply site for the US military in serious jeopardy and that it would probably take a few weeks to find out the true damage of the incident.

The blockade could be taken as a major security breach because the drivers were allowed to block US military personnel at their designated point of entry into the country and inside the established security perimeter, he said.

Resupply of American warships, including some of the world’s largest aircraft carriers, is an important industry for Phuket.

People think the only benefit to the local economy is the money sailors spend on night-life, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. When the USS Ronald Reagan was here they loaded 14 containers of supplies. It is a huge business and it would be a shame if we were to lose it because of the greed of a small group of taxi drivers,” he said.

 

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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

Phuket police search for foreigners who were seen drinking beer at a restaurant

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo by Tembela Bohle for Pexels

Phuket officials are serious about disease control orders banning parties and gatherings with friends, especially when alcohol is involved. They’re so serious, that apparently they’re searching for 4 foreigners who were seen drinking beers at a restuarant in Rawai.

Police raided the restuarant yesterday at a complaint from a woman who works for the Muang District Office. She was out on a campaign pushing for locals to wear face masks when she noticed that some people were sitting at the Roxanne restuarant, having a beer. Photos as well as a video was sent to the police showing a group of 4 foreign men and 2 Thai women sitting at the restaurant together.

Along with police officers, local officials from the Muang District Office and Rawai Municipality showed up to the restuarant. Reports say the men were seen driving off on motorcycles just as as the team of 10 officers and public officials arrived. The beer was still on the table when police arrived.

Officers took the owner of the restaurant and 4 of the employees to the Chalong Police Station. The owner is facing charges of breach of the provincial order banning the sale of alcohol and allowing the consumption of alcohol on the premises.

Just last week, police raided a home in Cherngtalay, breaking up a gathering of 6 people. 2 men from the UK who work in Phuket were taken to the police station and fined 6,000 baht.

As part of the disease control measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, preparing Phuket for a Covid-free reopening in July, Phuket officials have banned social activities and gatherings, with the expection of traditional events like funerals. Phuket authorities have warned that foreign residents who break the rules could be subject to being deported.

SOURCE: Phuket News

Phuket police search for foreigners who were seen drinking beer at a restaurant | News by Thaiger

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

12 Covid-19 violators busted drinking on Patong Beach

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: A group drinking on the beach was arrested for violating Covid-19 restrictions. (via Freepik)

12 violators of Covid-19 restrictions, of Thai and foreign origin, have been arrested and taken into custody by police for gathering and drinking in public on Patong Beach. The Covid-19 measures currently in place in Phuket ban all get-togethers involving alcohol, limiting the number that can drink together to just 2 people. The group were arrested for violating this order and for drinking in public.

According to the police the group had 3 foreign men in it along with 5 Thai women and 3 Thai ladyboys, so for those keen at maths the details of the 12th person were not revealed. The Covid-19 rule violators were arrested Friday night in Patong on the walkway along the beach on Thaweewong Road, the popular beachfront road.

Police noted the specifics of their liquor stash, confirming that the group had 2 bottles and 8 cans of Thai beer, 2 imported beers, 4 wine coolers, 4 soda waters, and 2 bottles of Thai liquor. The stash was confiscated by the police.

The perpetrators were brought to Phuket town to the Phuket City Police Station. There they were met by the Phuket Vice governors and medical personnel from Vachira Phuket Hospital. The medics administered swab sample Covid-19 test to each member of the group of restriction violators.

The Vice Governor reminded people that these restrictions were put in place after more than 20 people tested positive for Covid-19 from a small group of people drinking together. That is why the regulations allow just two people together when alcohol is involved. He stressed that police and government officials have been instructed to crack down on violators to try to quickly curb the spread of Covid-19 for a chance at reopening to international tourism July 1st.

Officials asked the public to work together to attempt to eliminate the spread of Covid-19 in Phuket and instructed anybody who sees violators of the Covid-19 restrictions to contact the police immediately. Sentence and fine details were not yet available for the group of 12.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 mask violators in Phuket forced to exercise

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Pushups instead of a 6,000 baht fine at a Phuket checkpoint yesterday. (via video screenshot)

For those who have more pounds on their body than pounds in their pocket, exercise punishment seen in Phuket yesterday for mask violators may or may not be welcome. Officials have walked back the strict 6,000 baht punishment for the first warning against someone not wearing a mask and were spotted forcing those who have gone out without a mask to do exercise on the street.

The people forced to exercise were at a Covid-19 checkpoint in the Rawai subdistrict, where the Chalong Police along with local medical workers were checking people yesterday. The checkpoint was set up in an effort to push one hundred per cent mask compliance to stop the spread of Covid-19 on Phuket.

Not only were they checking everyone who passed by to make sure they had their masks, but also to correct those who were wearing their masks improperly. We’ve all seen the people who seem to think that a mask on their chin or underneath their nose is somehow just as effective as a properly worn mask, or at least that they can get away with “wearing a mask” while limiting their personal inconvenience.

Officials were quick to point out that the overwhelming majority of people passing through the checkpoint, both foreigners and Thai, did have their masks with them and were wearing them properly. But they did catch more than 10 people not wearing their face mask or not using them correctly.

Authorities decided to let them off with a first soft warning by moving bodies instead of moving baht. Police made violators do exercise right there on the street in hopes of shaming them into making better decisions next time. All violators did have their names and details taken down with a promise that if they were caught again proper traditional fines would be handed down.

No word yet on any plans to make this punishment into a Tik-Tok Channel.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

 

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