- Politics and Social Issues»
- Asia Political & Social Issues
Terrorist Taxi Drivers Blockade Phuket International Airport In Thailand
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.