A taxi driver in Phuket has been charged with “frightening a person by use of threat” after handing himself in to the police.
According to police, Mr. Faris Abdul Kadir Basharahil, a Singaporean tourist, objected to paying the taxi driver Mr. Poramet Soraket an extra 100 baht to take him to the Grand Supicha City Hotel, which is roughly 1km distant from the cafe where their recorded fight occurred.
Mr. Faris was upset with the taxi driver’s handling of his bags and made a remark, as well as photographing the latter. Mr. Poramet became enraged and confronted the Singaporean with a metal rod in hand.
The motorist confronted the tourist, throwing his left arm threateningly at him and motioning to hit him. Following this interaction, the Singaporean filed a police report with the the Tourist Police. (See Video)
If proven guilty, the cab driver will face a 1,000 baht fine and a month in jail.
Meanwhile, Move Forward Party MPs-elect for Phuket have begun to address major issues confronting tourists and island inhabitants, such as police corruption and intimidation by Phuket cab drivers allegedly acting as a “mafia.”
Move Forward won all three Phuket Member of Parliament seats by wide margins in the May 14 national election.
Despite the fact that the Phuket office of the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT Phuket) has acknowledged the victories, the vote tallies are still technically “unofficial” because the ECT head office in Bangkok has not to validate its number of votes cast.
Regardless, upon the release of the unofficial results, all three Move Forward MPs-elect swore “to do their best” for the island.
Following through on that commitment, Somchart Techathavorncharoen, MP-elect for Constituency 1, paid a visit to Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong yesterday (May 23), even before being officially installed as a Phuket MP.
Phuket City Police Chief Col Pratuang Ponmana was also present at the meeting.
Taxi Driver Intimidation in Phuket
In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Somchart revealed that he addressed the issue of Phuket taxi drivers using Phuket-issued ‘green’ licence plates verbally insulting completely legal taxi drivers who use legally recognised taxi applications to pick up customers.
Mr. Somchart remarked that the main problem was recurring conflicts between taxi drivers, and he raised concern about “mafia behaviour” by blocking other cabs from picking up passengers in their “own queue area.”
According to him, the behaviour “destroys the reputation of the province’s tourism [industry].”
Mr Somchart sent links to stories about a woman taxi app driver who was recently approached while picking up a young woman passenger in front of Malin Plaza in Patong at night.
The ‘green plate’ taxi driver verbally insulted Ms Thitima, the taxi app driver, who stated she was entirely legal. She even has the requisite official stickers given by the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) attached to each door to publicly show that her car is properly registered and lawfully functioning as a taxi with approval from the PLTO.
The PLTO has yet to openly acknowledge the occurrence. Since early March, the PLTO has vigorously supported the island’s ‘green plate’ taxi cooperative drivers while waging a persistent campaign against “illegal” taxi app drivers. (See related stories here and here.)
The PLTO has even warned tourists that if they are discovered using an illegal cab, they may be obliged to stay in the country to appear in court.
The Malin Plaza incident was just the latest in a string of violent and unusual behaviours by Phuket cab cartel drivers against ‘taxi app’ drivers. In at least one case, a taxi app driver retaliated.
Corrupt police officers
Efforts by senior Phuket officials, including Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, to rein in Phuket taxi drivers’ bad behaviour have failed to bear fruit.
Mr Somchart claimed that Phuket Provincial Police Chief Maj Gen Sermphan affirmed that no taxi drivers or co-operatives have any legal right to try to enforce exclusive rights to pick up customers at a taxi stand in a public place.
Such behaviour is “not sanctioned by the law.” And there has been prosecution in the past under Criminal Code Section 309,” Maj Gen Sermphan stated.
As MP-elect for Phuket Mr. Somchart urged anyone who had problems with taxi drivers in his constituency to record audio and video clips of the offending taxi driver and report the incident to Phuket City Police Station.
Mr. Somchart also brought up the issue of corrupt police officers or imposters posing as police officers extorting, begging, or scamming people.
Notable among the issues expressed were “complaints about being extorted by the police to collect monthly tribute.”
“The police confirmed that the department does not demand a monthly bribe.” “So I proposed setting up an ambush to arrest them all at once so they could figure out which agency they were from or if they were just imposters,” Mr. Somchart explained.
Col. Pratuang, Chief of Phuket City Police, agreed with the plan, he stated.
Other topics mentioned yesterday included the prevalence of narcotics in rural areas, concerning which Mr. Somchart stated that he had received numerous complaints from citizens.
Mr. Somchart noted that leaking police accommodations were also discussed.