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Battle Lines Drawn Over New Phuket Bus Service

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Battle lines drawn over new Phuket bus service
Phuket Gazette -

PHUKET: Tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in the southern beach resort areas of Kata and Karon yesterday vowed to stage protests if the new Phuket bus service from the airport is launched.

Local police, however, said plainly that road blockades would not be tolerated.

The news came at a two-hour meeting held to resolve the conflict between the local drivers and the new bus service, which the drivers claim will greatly affect their income.

The meeting failed.

The tuk-tuk and taxi drivers refused to negotiate, and their threat of action was not veiled.

“You launch the bus, we will definitely block the road,” Sommart Homwan, president of the Kata-Karon Taxi and Tuk-tuk Driver’s 'Co-operative', said.

About 100 tuk-tuk and taxi drivers showed up at the meeting held at the Karon Municipality office in order to strongly oppose the proposed bus service from Phuket Airport to Kata-Karon (story here).

Despite rumors that other residents and business owners from the Kata-Karon area would join the protest meeting, the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers were the only voice to be heard.

The drivers’ flat refusal to approve any form of airport bus operating on their patch only strengthened the resolve of Phuket Land Transportation Office (PLTO) chief Teerayut Prasertpol to launch the bus service.

“I will report the drivers’ rejection today to Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut and Phuket Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada,” he said.

“I even proposed to the drivers that the last bus stop to be at Karon Circle. They refused to accept even that,” he added.

Mr Teerayut was adamant that he would see the bus service begin. “There are only a few hundred people who are against the new bus service. What about the thousands of others who need it?” he asked.

“My job is to get public transportation for the people. I must get it done. There are a lot of things to do to get this service running, and although I cannot yet confirm when it will begin, I will now push for it even harder,” Mr Teerayut said.

FEAR OF VIOLENCE

The meeting yesterday was called by Vice Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada after he publicly expressed his fear of violent attacks against the bus operator (story here).

Long known for using fear and intimidation as negotiation tactics, the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in Kata and Karon on January 3 staged a blockade of the Karon beach road to protest Russian tour operators not using local drivers to transport tourists. Among the complaints was that the Russian tour operators were undercutting local tuk-tuk and taxi fares.

Their reputation this week remained intact after a promotional journey for the new bus service – from Provincial Hall in Phuket Town to the site of the proposed bus stop at Karon – was called off at the last minute on Wednesday after the organizers realized that Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut would not be on board for the trip.

Governor Maitri was busy attending a meeting to outline the alcohol-free water-play zones for Songkran, and to announce the dates of the annual Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign for the upcoming holiday period (story here).

Calling off the promotional journey may have been prudent, as only days earlier Kata-Karon Taxi and Tuk-tuk Driver’s Co-operative president Sommart told the Gazette bluntly: “You run, we protest.”

Mr Sommart said the bus services would directly affect local drivers’ livelihoods. “If they are going to run the airport bus service, we will surely stage a protest. The airport bus service will definitely affect us. They are going to steal our jobs,” he said.

“The bus will serve a long route from Thalang to Kata, Karon and Patong. Think about how many customers they are going to steal from us,” he added.

LONE STAND

Mr Sommart was confident his drivers would receive support from fellow tuk-tuk and taxi drivers in Patong.

“Believe me, not just our drivers disagree with the service, drivers in other areas do as well because it will affect all of them,” he said.

“If you were a taxi driver who used to pick up passengers in Patong, at Phuket Airport, Kata and Karon, how would you feel if one day this bus comes and you suddenly lose your customers?” he asked.

However, the top representatives of the two largest tuk-tuk and taxi co-operatives in Patong this week told the Gazette they will stand aside if the provincial authorities support and approve the new bus service.

Preechavude “Prab” Keesin, son of Patong Mayor Pian Keesin and head of the Patong Taxi Federation, said, “I do not think our drivers will protest the airport bus service. I believe our 500 members will surely understand if the Phuket Transportation Office explains to them clearly why the bus was approved and how it will be beneficial to the tourism of the island.

“We, Patong people, we are understanding. We live in a tourism destination. What we want is to develop our area to make it attractive to tourists and support the tourism economics of Phuket. We do not want to do anything that will tarnish Phuket’s reputation,” Mr Prab said.

Setthasak Buason, president of the Patong Taxi and Tuk-tuk Driver’s Co-operative, admitted the bus service would greatly affect his members, but also said his drivers were willing to make the sacrifice for a greater good.

“I am sure our 300 members will not protest. If the provincial government approves it, that means it would be beneficial to Phuket as a whole. If the bus service is approved, that means our superiors believe it will bring more advantages than disadvantages to our community, so it will be a good thing,” he explained.

However, Mr Setthasak said there were about 100 independent tuk-tuk and taxi drivers operating in Patong not accounted for by the main two co-operatives.

“I do not know how they will react,” he said.

Karon Mayor Tawee Tongcham on Wednesday was strong in his words of support for the local drivers, insisting to the Gazette he would “stand by my people” and that he was “ready to support them if they want to fight.”

“They are my people. They chose me to be their leader. When they are in trouble, I have to be with them,” Mayor Tawee said.

“It is the job of the Phuket Land Transport Office to explain to Kata-Karon tuk-tuk and taxi drivers and to hear their problems, because they will be one big group who will feel the effects of the new bus service, so their opinion should be listened to as well,” he added.

At the meeting yesterday, however, Mayor Tawee sat silently observing the discussions.

LIMITED SYMPATHY

The Karon Police also said they understood the local drivers’ plight, but warned that the police’s patience extended only so far.

“We do not want violence. We will try to find a way to compromise,” Karon Police Deputy Superintendent Pachai Mattayan said.

“Blocking the road is not the answer. They have a right to protest, but not to block the road. I will not allow them to do it. They cannot make any trouble for other motorists,” he said.

“They could send their representative to talk to us, but if negotiations fail and they continue to protest, we will have no choice but to arrest them,” the police colonel warned.

Lt Col Pachai said he sympathized with the local drivers, but added the drivers should consider the bigger picture.

“I totally understand that the bus service will directly affect tuk-tuk and taxi drivers, but it might also bring good benefits to other service operators, such as hotels or beach vendors,” he said.

“If the bus service brings benefits to the majority, then the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers should accept this fact,” Col Pachai stated.

Source: http://www.phuketgazette.net/phuket_news/2013/Battle-lines-drawn-over-new-Phuket-bus-service-20714.html

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-- Phuket Gazette 2013-04-06

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“If the bus service brings benefits to the majority, then the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers should accept this fact,” Col Pachai stated.

Yeh ... right.

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Mr Sommart said the bus services would directly affect local drivers’ livelihoods. “If they are going to run the airport bus service, we will surely stage a protest. The airport bus service will definitely affect us. They are going to steal our jobs,” he said.

It's much better that you allowed to keep stealing from all the tourists. Time to grow up Mr. (not so) Sommart and discover the world is not just about you and your ilk!

Edited by Jimi007
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As I've said before, there's only one thing to do with people like Sommart Homwan and his friends:

Edit: Not to be taken too seriously, of course. whistling.gif

Edited by JetsetBkk
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Mr Sommart said the bus services would directly affect local drivers’ livelihoods. “If they are going to run the airport bus service, we will surely stage a protest. The airport bus service will definitely affect us. They are going to steal our jobs,” he said.

It's much better that you allowed to keep stealing from all the tourists. Time to grow up Mr. (not so) Sommart and discover the world is not just about you and your ilk!

The situation should never have gotten as bad as it is. It is going to be a lot harder to undo it than it would have been to prevent it. Getting some of these cretins behind bars when they protest will be a good start. I see retaliations happening if they do that, and reinforcements brought in from other provinces or Bangkok. That is when this all gets very interesting.

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I rather think some construction trucks might just be able to move a tuk-tuk or two ...

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Been a while since been in Phuket. What actually are the Tuk Tuk and MC fares today?

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Been a while since been in Phuket. What actually are the Tuk Tuk and MC fares today?

Me wanna know too. Planning to go after Songkran and I haven't seen mention since "Hitler plans a Phuket Vacation" youtube sendup. Do meter cabs exist?

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Been a while since been in Phuket. What actually are the Tuk Tuk and MC fares today?

Me wanna know too. Planning to go after Songkran and I haven't seen mention since "Hitler plans a Phuket Vacation" youtube sendup. Do meter cabs exist?

They exists but don't use the meter. They act like mafia and have some agreed fares which are very very overpriced. That's why they are so scared, they are used to charge those prices and get zero competitors. Only time I was there I was charged 500 baht for a 15 min ride and it was impossible to get a lower fare, all of them quoted same price. It's a shame because the place is nice, but I am not going back if this crap doesn't improve.

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What a crock o s---, everyone knows nothing will happen to these tuk tuk jerks, how many people have they beat and stabbed, only never to be charged?

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What gets me as with Pattaya is none of these idiots actually come from Phuket or Pattaya. All their family books are up north and they come down to find a living. I think this bus service should extend to all locations, patong included. This is public transport provided to drive on public roads, paid for by the public purse. Every airport has a public bus service running to tourist destinations. Tell them to get over it and lock them up. The only thing i disagree with is they have singled out one destination when the service should run to all.

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Why not start with baht bus as in Pattaya at the same time. The Tuk-tuk drivers complain that they have just a few trips pr day, thats why they have to charge 300-400 baht pr tour. If they start with a jump on\off service with the price off 20 baht inside Patong and 30-40 baht from Patong to Kata. Then plenty people will use their service just for small trips, and they will get an huge increase in salery (but they need to work, and not just hang around on beach road).

The benefit will be: More happy tourist and expats, less people will rent motor bike ( maybe people who rent out bikes will block they road), less tourists will be involved in accidents, less parking problems in patong, tuktuk drivers will increase their salery.

Its a win win situation for tuktuk drivers, tourists and Phuket. But the problem is the tuk tuk drivers dont have IQ to understant it. They just think 300 baht is more than 20 bath so this is a bad deal. The trip they normaly charge 300 baht for can now give them 400-500 baht. Instead of standing and waiting in line, they can now drive around and earn more money. They will not loose. They will be happy that the airport bus will bring them more customers so they dont have to waist time to drive to the airport.

Edited by dartvidar

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Maybe the goverment should tell the tuktuk drivers that, what ever happen to the bus or bus driver will feed back to the leaders of the union and their members. If they block the bus, the police will put up road blocks and block all tuktuks for driving in 1 month. If they beat up the bus driver, all the leaders for the tuktuk union will be arrested and beaten up in jail. If the bus driver got killed, all the leaders for the tuktuk union will be arrested and put in jail for life time.

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“If the bus service brings benefits to the majority, then the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers should accept this fact,” Col Pachai stated.

Yeh ... right.

I am so sick of the taxi and particularly the Tuk Tuk mafia who think they own Phuket, that even though i don't use either and have not done so for about 14 years, i felt it was time to do something as this bus service is mainly for the Thais, who take their lives into their hands by travelling to patong and beyond by motorbike going to and from work. Since the announcement by the 'Uneducated Thug" Sommart Homwaan I have been actively writting in forums, travel blogs, emails to Embassies etc. asking tourists visiting Phuket to do everything in their power NOT to use these people. Hit them where it hurts...their pockets. When i have time i hope to set up a web site named PAT...Phuket against Tuk Tuks and Taxi's (maybe should be PATAT)and would welcome any help or advice from any concerned expats or Thai residents out there. It is time we did something about these thugs. Phuket's reputation is going down the drain due to the ineffectiveness of local government and police. Teerayut Prasertpol, Chief the Provincial Land Transport

Office should be given a medal for his insistence, although i hope he now has bodyguard protection.

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