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Terrorist Taxi Drivers Blockade Phuket International Airport In Thailand

Updated on March 30, 2012
Traditional Phuket Tuk Tuk
Traditional Phuket Tuk Tuk | Source

Introduction

This story is based on actual events that happened several years ago in the beach resort Island of Phuket in Southern Thailand. The details of this story can not be verified by eyewitness accounts or any documented reports in the local media, however if you ask anyone who was living in Phuket at the time, they can probably tell you that they remember the incident. Stories of taxi drivers brutally attacking tourists are quite common in Phuket, including robbery, rape and even murder.

What makes this story particularly disturbing is that it displays how powerful the local tuk tuk mafia in Phuket actually is. The local police are afraid of them, the politicians know that they need their support to have any hope of being elected to office, and although the government despises them, they are unable to do anything about them. The media doesn't want to publish any reports that put Phuket into a negative light, because they rely on tourism as much as anyone, so the tuk tuk mafia continues to terrorize tourists and little is ever done about it.


A TRUE STORY

It was a busy afternoon at Phuket International Airport, tourists arriving on flights from all over the world. The airport in Phuket is located almost an hour drive away from most of the Island's popular beach resorts, resulting in a competitive and lucrative business for local taxi drivers. As tourists walk out the front doors of the Airport they are welcomed by hundreds of taxi drivers shouting and hustling in an attempt to lure them into their cabs. Every driver may have a different approach, some may shout loudly and try to rush a disoriented foreigner, others may speak softly with a charming smile.

This afternoon however, one of the airport security guards noticed that one of the drivers had a very aggressive approach, he was grabbing tourists by the arm, trying to haul them into his taxi. The security guard calmly walked over to the driver, and asked him to keep his hands off the tourists. The driver did not take kindly to being told what to do, and he began to shout at the security guard "do you know who I am". He was suggesting that he was a man that was not to be messed with, a man with connections that will do as he pleases, and no man will stand in his way. This is a common attitude among Phuket's mafia tuk tuk drivers.

The security guard was a much larger man, younger and in far better physical shape, and he sternly explained that it his job to make sure nobody is hassling the tourists. After a brief shouting match, the driver walked away shouting angrily and vowing to return. Just about an hour later the driver returned with two of his younger cousins, and the three men approached the security guard, with the intention of teaching him a lesson.

The security guard was not interested in taking a beating on this day, and he warned the men to stop. When they continued to approach, he pulled out his weapon and fired point blank, killing one of the men instantly. The other two men fled the scene, leaving their friend to bleed to death in front of the entrance to the airport. This was a sad and tragic end to a needless dispute that never should have happened in the first place.

The results that followed are even more shocking, immediately after the shooting, hundreds of friends and family of the driver rushed to the airport with their tuk tuks, taxis, cars and pick up trucks. They decided to block all traffic coming into or going out of the airport, and they demanded a sum of 1 million THB (30,000USD). The airport was blocked for several hours, with hundreds of tourists stranded inside.

You would think that the police would have been able to put an end to the blockade, and surely if the police failed, the military could do something. After a standoff that lasted several hours, the rumor is that the Airport Authority paid the family of the man killed the 1 million THB that they had demanded. Only then was traffic going to and from the airport allowed to flow freely.

As amazing as it sounds, it seems that a rag tag group of outlaw taxi drivers are able to force the hand of the Airport Authority, The local government and law enforcement and just about anyone who apposes them. These type of blockades are still very common in Phuket, most recently at the deep sea port, where tuk tuk drivers demand that tourists use tuk tuks rather than any other method of transportation that may be far more affordable. Today the most common complaint of tourists traveling to Phuket is the lack of affordable transportation, and the violence and hassle associated with tuk tuk drivers.



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Comments

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    • profile image

      aa2 

      7 years ago

      i had some hopes to travel to thailand but from all the above comments i can not

    • TravelinAsia profile imageAUTHOR

      TravelinAsia 

      8 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

      Just this week there have been reports of Phuket tuk tuks blocking traffic in Patong Beach, protesting police intervention in a brawl between tourists and taxi drivers. The reports say that the brawl became so intense that police were forced to draw their weapons. Apparently the taxi drivers feel that they are above the law.

      read the report in the local media : http://phuketwan.com/tourism/tuk-tuk-brawl-expats-...

    • profile image

      gobangla 

      8 years ago

      My husband was in Thailand several years ago for a flight stopover. He said he will never stop there again. He said the behavior of taxi and bus drivers is terrible, which is really surprising for a nation with so much tourism.

    • TravelinAsia profile imageAUTHOR

      TravelinAsia 

      8 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

      @Ronanywhere,

      It is a common story, as far as the tuk tuk drivers are concerned.. they own all the streets, even when you are driving they will try to run you off the road. It is very common for a tuk tuk to drive head on at a motorcycle leaving the driver of the bike no choice but to get off the road. I am not sure if they do this for fun, or if they are just in a hurry?

    • profile image

      robanywhere 

      8 years ago

      just got back from phuket last weekend. i always rent a car at the airport. this time i made the mistake of parking on the street outside jungceylon (but outside the cones that mark the tuktuk territory). i guess ALL the streets belong to the tuktuks, because when i returned to my car it was all scratched up. i will only park in attended car-parks in phuket from now on....

    • profile image

      liverpool one 

      8 years ago

      i used to go to thailand a lot & now i dont

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      8 years ago from South East Asia

      I recall the story. It is not just Phuket where these things happen though. Tourists need to do a bit of homework first and then you can always get out of the airport safely and cheaply.

    • Glassy profile image

      Glassy 

      8 years ago from Aus

      I want to thank you for writing this Hub, as i know too well about the tuk tuks mafia like ways. They stabbed an Aussie guy some months back and they even chased him into the 7 Eleven to do the deed, in front of everyone!

      I heard a rumor that the tuk tuks are controlled by the mayors son and if it's true, that would explain why they can get away with anything with the authorities.

      Ramrod, I'm sorry to hear about your run in with them. I hope you weren't hurt? Even if it wasn't a tuk tuk driver, if you are a tourist in Thailand and you have an accident, it's your fault no matter what and you must pay. You were lucky to get away with that and I'm glad that you did.

      What needs to be done about these guys is the tourists must be better informed to not go with them so they can suffer, but they could also become more desperate and more crazy.

    • profile image

      ramrod 

      8 years ago

      I was hit by a tuk tuk driver point blank 6 months ago in kata and I had to leave beacuse they were going to exstort me...It was my fault he was yelling at his friends and didn't see me and nailed me.... I had to hide the bike and then hide at a friends house for a week.(thanx KS) local police came looking for the bike and i'm sure money from me.... Bullshit

      R-

    • profile image

      Randy 

      8 years ago

      I can remember when this happened in Phuket, and it was a big deal, everyone was talkin about it! This is not the only story about tuk tuk drivers, they do this kind of shit all the time.. they are a total menace!

    • psycheskinner profile image

      Penny Skinner 

      8 years ago

      What a sad state of affairs...

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