Phuket Gazette

Special Report

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has opened an 'Organized Crime Center' [sic] at Phuket International Airport to crack down on illegal taxi drivers still operating there. The move follows widespread allegations of mafia operating on the island and illegal taxi drivers overcharging tourists. Here, the Phuket Gazette investigates what it takes to become a Phuket taxi driver.

PHUKET: There are currently 2,110 taxis legally registered to operate in Phuket; 129 of those are metered taxis. However, almost 1,000 more drivers continue to work illegally on the island, gleaning profit from freshly arrived tourists, often through outright gouging.

During the crackdown earlier this year, the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) identified 2,882 illegal taxis in Phuket. The crackdown inspired a further 1,981 taxi drivers to apply to have their vehicles registered.

“The PLTO is currently processing those applications,” explained PLTO officer Jaturong Kaewkasi.

However, that means at least 900 taxi drivers are operating without having made any attempt to become legal (story here).

“This is despite us granting them amnesty and helping them by negotiating with finance companies, banks and insurance companies to reduce the costs of re-registering their vehicles as private taxis in order to become legal drivers,” Mr Jaturong said.

Although the amnesty ended on April 30, drivers can still apply to register their vehicles as taxis and apply for their taxi drivers’ licenses, he added.

Along with the carrot came the stick. On May 1, police and PLTO officers were called upon to fine all drivers caught for “illegally operating a vehicle as a taxi”. The fine levied was the flat maximum 2,000 baht for each infringement.

The enforcement enjoyed limited success. Phuket Provincial Police confirmed to the Gazette that across the island 170 drivers were each fined 2,000 baht in April for not applying to register their vehicles as taxis, while their counterparts who were still illegally operating taxis but who had applied to become legal, were let free.

A further 246 drivers were fined in May, and another 224 in June.

However, the penalty is no stiffer for repeat offenders. “We do not have stronger penalties for drivers who repeatedly break the law. So far, the fine is 2,000 baht every time they are caught,” Mr Jaturong said.

THE CARS

Regardless of whether a taxi is fitted with a meter or not, the engine size must not be less than 1600cc. “It doesn’t matter which make or model of car it is, and there is no restriction on the maximum size of the engine,” Mr Jaturong explained.

The vehicle cannot be more than two years old at the time it is registered as a taxi, and cannot be used as a taxi after the vehicle turns nine years old from the date the car was first registered, he added.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as an independent taxi driver in Phuket. The car must be registered as working for a legally registered organization.

“This is a nationwide regulation so that the driver of each taxi can be identified and reached in case he does something wrong,” Mr Jaturong explained.

“The person registering the taxi must provide evidence that he works for a formal organization. He can provide a signed agreement proving he works as part of a taxi co-operative, or an employment contract showing he works for a tourism business, such as a tour kiosk, or for some other form of legal entity,” he added.

Regardless, so-called “taxi groups” are not held accountable for their members’ actions, even if their members consistently break the law.

“If their drivers are involved in a crime, charges will be pressed against the driver, not the group,” Mr Jaturong said.

“If there are complaints against a driver, the group will resolve the issue themselves. They have their own rules to punish drivers, such as suspending the drivers from work. The number of days’ suspension – and hence lost income – will depend on what the drivers have done wrong,” he assured.

THE DRIVERS

In order to carry passengers in a taxi, drivers must be Thai nationals, as ferrying passengers is a job prohibited to foreigners under the Alien Workers Act.

They must hold a commercial driver’s license, be at least 22 years old and also hold a valid standard driver’s license issued for five years.

Applicants must provide a medical certificate affirming they are free from leprosy, tuberculosis, elephantiasis, drug addiction and alcoholism.

And they must pass a test which takes place over a two-day period at the PLTO, during which applicants receive training in traffic law, basic English language, polite manners and common courtesy, Mr Konlayut said.

They also undergo an eyesight and reflex test.

As part of the process, police conduct a background check.

“Any applicants found to have served jail time for any crime will be rejected,” Mr Konlayut assured.

“However, repeat offenders, even for traffic offenses such as reckless driving, will be issued a license to drive a taxi in Phuket so long as they have not served a day in prison,” he added.

Once issued their license, on its large yellow card, the drivers must have it on display at all times while driving the taxi.

THE INSURANCE

Every vehicle being registered as a taxi must first have at least basic commercial insurance coverage, as stipulated by the national Office of Insurance Commission, before the PLTO will process its application.

The high cost of commercial insurance has been an ongoing point of dispute among many illegal taxi drivers in Phuket, who claim they cannot afford the rates.

To make insurance coverage more affordable, the PLTO directly engaged in negotiations with finance companies, banks and insurance companies on behalf of the drivers. The result, after months of talks, was base policies starting at about 30,000 baht per annum.

“We know it can be expensive, but we have done the best we can – and this is a mandatory requirement for a vehicle to be registered as a taxi,” Mr Jaturong confirmed.

Yet Patong Police Traffic Inspector Ekkarat Plaiduang confirmed to the Gazette that his officers would not pursue charges against any driver found driving without the required insurance.

“Instead, we will report it to the insurance company and let them decide whether they want to file a complaint,’ Maj Ekkarat explained.

“If they do, we will charge not the driver. but the owner of the car with providing false information on an official document. The penalty for that is a fine of up to 60,000 baht or up to three years in prison, or both,” he said.

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage.

THE AIRPORT

The ultimate goal of nearly every taxi driver on the island is to serve Phuket International Airport, which Chanchai Doungjit, chief of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office, last month reported was the primary tourist gateway on an island that attracts about 11 million visitors per year.

Tourists pump an estimated 200 billion baht into the local economy, said Mr Chanchai. The consequence is that, for many taxi drivers in Phuket, the airport represents an easy avenue to hard cash.

To legally serve the airport, however, drivers must work for one of the taxi co-operatives that have signe
– Chutharat Plerin

1

Beside some of the odd rules, (e.g., a taxi driver can be fined for reckless driving but can still hold his licence as long as he didn't go to jail), there is one very serious stumbling block for illegals wanting to register. At the time of registration, the vehicle may not be more than two years old. I would think it would be fair to allow them to register as long as the vehicle is not more than 9 years old, the max allowed for a taxi.

Posted by Dave August 11, 2013 08:01:44PM

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Unbelievable? “We know it can be expensive, but we have done the best we can – and this is a mandatory requirement for a vehicle to be registered as a taxi,” Mr Jaturong confirmed. Yet Patong Police Traffic Inspector Ekkarat Plaiduang confirmed to the Gazette that his officers would not pursue charges against any driver found driving without the required insurance. I can understand the Vehicle owner is responsible!

Posted by Bjay August 11, 2013 08:48:25PM

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Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay August 11, 2013 08:57:09PM

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4

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand August 11, 2013 09:44:36PM

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5

I don't understand why taxis are forced to work for a "taxi co-op". Why can't there be a free economy, instead of s instituting a controlled, quasi-monopoly which serves only the AoT and the operators and results in higher fares? The "black taxis" were actually good in that they were free from price-controlled "mob" coops, offered competition and most times were willing to provide services at reduced rates.

Posted by bustersizemore August 12, 2013 07:42:48AM

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6

The focus should be on drivers operating the vehicles safely and obeying traffic laws, especially speed limits. The manner in which taxis and minivans are operated in Phuket is shocking. Drivers should be checked randomly for drug use and concealed weapons. Valid commerciall insurance and commercial driving licenses should be mandatory, and fines must levied on offenders.The requirements reported above are just "window dressing".

Posted by bustersizemore August 12, 2013 07:57:16AM

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7

Hahaha, what can I say. Are you people for real? Who is writing this? The most bad people on the road and the Gazette write like this!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHAME.

Posted by Hans August 12, 2013 08:30:54AM

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8

Why oh Why have they not listed a meter as a required item? Like everywhere else in the world would do!

Posted by Tim August 12, 2013 08:33:03AM

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9

Another huge hurdle is the outrageous amount of time it take to get paperwork signed. Every single year I have to wait at least two months for paperwork to come back from Bangkok so my songthaew will be legal. I have all of the proper paperwork, pay the taxes, do everything required, etc, but I can't legally use my bus for two months of the year as it apparently takes two months (and counting) to look at my file.

Posted by Dave Williams August 12, 2013 08:43:21AM

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10

I wonder how old the Toyota Tiger or Sport Cruiser is in the picture? Toyota stopped manufacturing that model in late 2004, making it a minimum of 9 years old already.

Posted by A local August 12, 2013 09:01:59AM

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11

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand

You sure or you get paid for comment like this. Jump into the real world please.

Posted by Hans August 12, 2013 09:07:08AM

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12

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf August 12, 2013 11:30:31AM

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13

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Yet Patong Police Traffic Inspector Ekkarat Plaiduang confirmed to the Gazette that his officers would not pursue charges against any driver found driving without the required insurance. “Instead, we will report it to the insurance company and let them decide whether they want to file a complaint,’ Maj Ekkarat explained. That's the best! ;-) No insurance = no insurance company or not!

Posted by Johannsson August 12, 2013 12:10:14PM

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14

I don't think airport taxis are the main problem but congrats for cleaning them up. It's the rip-off red tuk-tuk drivers of Karon, Patong, Kata that kill Phuket's name. Long overdue for clean-up. How many governors have said they will fix the tuk-tuks? And zip-zero has happened.

Posted by shame August 12, 2013 12:44:43PM

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15

"Legally registering a car has been cited as the most difficult hurdle to becoming a legal taxi driver." No, it is passing a drug test, having knowledge and an actual obedience to traffic laws, having no criminal convictions, bearing no weapons and possessing a sane mind!

Posted by thefalang August 12, 2013 08:57:54PM

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16

The focus should be on drivers operating the vehicles safely and obeying traffic laws, especially speed limits. The manner in which taxis and minivans are operated in Phuket is shocking. Drivers should be checked randomly for drug use and concealed weapons. Valid commerciall insurance and commercial driving licenses should be mandatory, and fines must levied on offenders.The requirements reported above are just "window dressing".

Posted by bustersizemore

"The requirements reported above are just 'window dressing'." This is of course fact. As I read these "requirements", I could feel the hypocrisy and scoffing cynicism so strongly I almost puked.

Posted by Art Anderson August 13, 2013 08:05:30AM

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17

Why oh Why have they not listed a meter as a required item? Like everywhere else in the world would do!

Posted by Tim

Eh, they don't like meters, Tim. They consider the little devices as hostile. Not friendly. Not good for business. Not good for the Aot, the drivers, their bosses or the police. In fact the only people to BENEFIT from them would be the public, our tourists, and Thailand's little hospitality industry. So it would make no sense to introduce the metered concept here. Wake up!

Posted by Ardeth August 13, 2013 08:11:56AM

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18

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand

You sure or you get paid for comment like this. Jump into the real world please.

Posted by Hans

:)) Another island intellectual who can't read English, or who doesn't understand what a report is.

Posted by Dan Hollingsford August 13, 2013 08:18:30AM

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19

"Legally registering a car has been cited as the most difficult hurdle to becoming a legal taxi driver." No, it is passing a drug test, having knowledge and an actual obedience to traffic laws, having no criminal convictions, bearing no weapons and possessing a sane mind!

Posted by thefalang

Correct in every detail, but you forgot one thing: Eradication of the Sense of Entitlement by virtue of having been Born on Local Soil.

Posted by PG Reader August 13, 2013 08:31:30AM

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20

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf

Dear Editor, I use that word loosely, you missed the missing "d" on notice, do you not think it would be more professional to actually have changed speak to speech? After all, that is what a professional editor would do.

Posted by lonewolf August 13, 2013 11:38:56AM

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21

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf

Dear Editor, I use that word loosely, you missed the missing "d" on notice, do you not think it would be more professional to actually have changed speak to speech? After all, that is what a professional editor would do.

Posted by lonewolf

When leaving comments, I personally don't feel it is the responsibility of Editorial staff to make any alterations. We all make the occassional [sic] mistake! You shouldn't worry so much, after all you have been around long enough to know better. Anyway, alterations could be construed as censorship? (Spot my deliberate spelling error?)

Posted by Bjay August 13, 2013 06:17:26PM

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21

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf

Dear Editor, I use that word loosely, you missed the missing "d" on notice, do you not think it would be more professional to actually have changed speak to speech? After all, that is what a professional editor would do.

Posted by lonewolf

When leaving comments, I personally don't feel it is the responsibility of Editorial staff to make any alterations. We all make the occassional [sic] mistake! You shouldn't worry so much, after all you have been around long enough to know better. Anyway, alterations could be construed as censorship? (Spot my deliberate spelling error?)

Posted by Bjay August 13, 2013 06:17:26PM

Reply

0    0

20

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf

Dear Editor, I use that word loosely, you missed the missing "d" on notice, do you not think it would be more professional to actually have changed speak to speech? After all, that is what a professional editor would do.

Posted by lonewolf August 13, 2013 11:38:56AM

Reply

0    0

19

"Legally registering a car has been cited as the most difficult hurdle to becoming a legal taxi driver." No, it is passing a drug test, having knowledge and an actual obedience to traffic laws, having no criminal convictions, bearing no weapons and possessing a sane mind!

Posted by thefalang

Correct in every detail, but you forgot one thing: Eradication of the Sense of Entitlement by virtue of having been Born on Local Soil.

Posted by PG Reader August 13, 2013 08:31:30AM

Reply

0    0

18

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand

You sure or you get paid for comment like this. Jump into the real world please.

Posted by Hans

:)) Another island intellectual who can't read English, or who doesn't understand what a report is.

Posted by Dan Hollingsford August 13, 2013 08:18:30AM

Reply

0    0

17

Why oh Why have they not listed a meter as a required item? Like everywhere else in the world would do!

Posted by Tim

Eh, they don't like meters, Tim. They consider the little devices as hostile. Not friendly. Not good for business. Not good for the Aot, the drivers, their bosses or the police. In fact the only people to BENEFIT from them would be the public, our tourists, and Thailand's little hospitality industry. So it would make no sense to introduce the metered concept here. Wake up!

Posted by Ardeth August 13, 2013 08:11:56AM

Reply

0    0

16

The focus should be on drivers operating the vehicles safely and obeying traffic laws, especially speed limits. The manner in which taxis and minivans are operated in Phuket is shocking. Drivers should be checked randomly for drug use and concealed weapons. Valid commerciall insurance and commercial driving licenses should be mandatory, and fines must levied on offenders.The requirements reported above are just "window dressing".

Posted by bustersizemore

"The requirements reported above are just 'window dressing'." This is of course fact. As I read these "requirements", I could feel the hypocrisy and scoffing cynicism so strongly I almost puked.

Posted by Art Anderson August 13, 2013 08:05:30AM

Reply

0    0

15

"Legally registering a car has been cited as the most difficult hurdle to becoming a legal taxi driver." No, it is passing a drug test, having knowledge and an actual obedience to traffic laws, having no criminal convictions, bearing no weapons and possessing a sane mind!

Posted by thefalang August 12, 2013 08:57:54PM

Reply

0    0

14

I don't think airport taxis are the main problem but congrats for cleaning them up. It's the rip-off red tuk-tuk drivers of Karon, Patong, Kata that kill Phuket's name. Long overdue for clean-up. How many governors have said they will fix the tuk-tuks? And zip-zero has happened.

Posted by shame August 12, 2013 12:44:43PM

Reply

0    0

13

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Yet Patong Police Traffic Inspector Ekkarat Plaiduang confirmed to the Gazette that his officers would not pursue charges against any driver found driving without the required insurance. “Instead, we will report it to the insurance company and let them decide whether they want to file a complaint,’ Maj Ekkarat explained. That's the best! ;-) No insurance = no insurance company or not!

Posted by Johannsson August 12, 2013 12:10:14PM

Reply

0    0

12

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay

Now Bjay, you have been around long enough to know the media, English AND Thai, do NOT ask the difficult questions, or haven't you notice? We only get what the media are told, no questions asked. Although Thailand is supposedly a "democracy", there really is NO freedom of speak [sic].

Posted by lonewolf August 12, 2013 11:30:31AM

Reply

0    0

11

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand

You sure or you get paid for comment like this. Jump into the real world please.

Posted by Hans August 12, 2013 09:07:08AM

Reply

0    0

10

I wonder how old the Toyota Tiger or Sport Cruiser is in the picture? Toyota stopped manufacturing that model in late 2004, making it a minimum of 9 years old already.

Posted by A local August 12, 2013 09:01:59AM

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9

Another huge hurdle is the outrageous amount of time it take to get paperwork signed. Every single year I have to wait at least two months for paperwork to come back from Bangkok so my songthaew will be legal. I have all of the proper paperwork, pay the taxes, do everything required, etc, but I can't legally use my bus for two months of the year as it apparently takes two months (and counting) to look at my file.

Posted by Dave Williams August 12, 2013 08:43:21AM

Reply

0    0

8

Why oh Why have they not listed a meter as a required item? Like everywhere else in the world would do!

Posted by Tim August 12, 2013 08:33:03AM

Reply

0    0

7

Hahaha, what can I say. Are you people for real? Who is writing this? The most bad people on the road and the Gazette write like this!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHAME.

Posted by Hans August 12, 2013 08:30:54AM

Reply

0    0

6

The focus should be on drivers operating the vehicles safely and obeying traffic laws, especially speed limits. The manner in which taxis and minivans are operated in Phuket is shocking. Drivers should be checked randomly for drug use and concealed weapons. Valid commerciall insurance and commercial driving licenses should be mandatory, and fines must levied on offenders.The requirements reported above are just "window dressing".

Posted by bustersizemore August 12, 2013 07:57:16AM

Reply

0    0

5

I don't understand why taxis are forced to work for a "taxi co-op". Why can't there be a free economy, instead of s instituting a controlled, quasi-monopoly which serves only the AoT and the operators and results in higher fares? The "black taxis" were actually good in that they were free from price-controlled "mob" coops, offered competition and most times were willing to provide services at reduced rates.

Posted by bustersizemore August 12, 2013 07:42:48AM

Reply

0    0

4

Thank you, Khun Chutharat. An excellent article – very clearly explained.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand August 11, 2013 09:44:36PM

Reply

0    0

3

Maj Ekkarat did not elaborate on what action police would take in case passengers, including tourists, are injured in an accident involving a taxi with inadequate insurance coverage. So presumably the Gazette asked the question? This is what the insurance is for! Why don't the Police do their job? The Gazette should address this issue with the Police; the law is the law and it is not the responsibility of Insurers!

Posted by Bjay August 11, 2013 08:57:09PM

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0    0

2

Unbelievable? “We know it can be expensive, but we have done the best we can – and this is a mandatory requirement for a vehicle to be registered as a taxi,” Mr Jaturong confirmed. Yet Patong Police Traffic Inspector Ekkarat Plaiduang confirmed to the Gazette that his officers would not pursue charges against any driver found driving without the required insurance. I can understand the Vehicle owner is responsible!

Posted by Bjay August 11, 2013 08:48:25PM

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1

Beside some of the odd rules, (e.g., a taxi driver can be fined for reckless driving but can still hold his licence as long as he didn't go to jail), there is one very serious stumbling block for illegals wanting to register. At the time of registration, the vehicle may not be more than two years old. I would think it would be fair to allow them to register as long as the vehicle is not more than 9 years old, the max allowed for a taxi.

Posted by Dave August 11, 2013 08:01:44PM

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0    0

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