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Phuket, where tuk tuk drivers and corruption rule

A tuk-tuk blockade in Patong and the revelation that passports are being easily stolen and bought on Phuket made us realise this week how wrong we have been...reports Phuketwan

Phuket remains a lawless place, where anything goes, despite the hopes we had for change sparked by the excellent advice of European Union and Chinese Ambassadors last year. 


While the holiday island gives the appearance that it's a safer place and 99.9 percent of tourists go home happy, the tuk-tuk blockade proved who really runs the island. 

It's plain that police are powerless. It's plain that the compromises attempted by administrators over the past 15 years have achieved nothing. 

We believe that Tourism and Sports Minister Somsak Pureesrisak - our Phuketwan Phuket Person of the Year 2013 - and Region 8 Commander Major General Panya Mamen are sincere and want Phuket to be a better place for both residents and tourists.

But if tuk-tuk drivers can take over the streets of Patong on a whim and be allowed to get away with it, Phuket has not place on any list of desirable destinations, or pleasant places to live. 

That was this week's first shock realisation. The revelations that have followed the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been just as damning. 

Phuket's motorcycle and car renters are supposed to have been ordered to cease taking passports as collateral. 

It's illegal. Envoys from Europe, Australia and elsewhere have repeatedly pointed out the dangers of rip-offs and the risks individuals take by handing their most important document to strangers. 

Phuket is supposed to be Thailand's first truly international destination. Yet there are no signs that international standards are being adopted, or even that there is a willingness to adopt international standards.

So once again we call on the Thai Government to make Phuket the place it should be, for residents and visitors, by conducting a strenuous no-holds-barred campaign to obliterate corruption on the island. 

Put a hard, incorruptible man (or woman) in charge. Give him the chance that Phuket deserves to be made the role model for the rest of Thailand. 

Then, when Phuket is corruption free, when the environment is properly protected, when sustainability has been achieved, take the Phuket model and make every province in Thailand as good as Phuket. 

To ignore the important lessons of this week by not acting would mean a significant defeat to those of us who believe Phuket still deserves a chance. 

But Phuket is ruled by its tuk-tuk and taxi drivers. And international standards are still constantly and almost universally ignored. 

Here is a checklist of the seven items that the European Union ambassadors, meeting with the Phuket Governor in mid 2013, thought should be pursued. 

The EU Ambassadors' List of Seven Phuket Necessities 

.. An efficient and fairly priced public transport system in Phuket which is available to foreign tourists and residents alike.

.. An end to intimidatory and violent behavior by an element of tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.

.. Strict enforcement of marine safety standards, including flags on beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim.

.. Strict enforcement of standards of behavior for public officials, including police and Immigration, to ensure that foreign visitors and residents feel protected, treated in a fair way and never at risk of extortion.

.. An end to scams involving hiring of equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes.

.. Strict enforcement of road safety regulations.

.. Promotion of environmental issues, including monitoring of water quality.

We'll let readers consider whether progress has been made.

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