Monday, April 9, 2012

Thailand: Tuk-Tuk Driver Assaults Australian Tourist Over Fare Dispute

An Australian tourist visiting the island of Phuket was punched in the face by a tuk-tuk driver in a dispute over a high fare on April 6. The tourist and his companions wanted to go back to the Merlin Beach Resort from the Jungceylon Shopping Mall, a five-to-ten-minute drive.

During the discussion the driver demanded 500 baht (US$16.12) for the trip to the hotel at which point the Australian countered with 250 baht (US$8.06). After a back and forth exchange, and without provocation, the driver punched the tourist in the face and summarily drove off, breaking the man's eyeglasses.

COMMENT: The Australian reported the incident to the police station, largely because the eyeglasses were prescription and expensive.

It should also be mentioned that tuk-tuk drivers are by far the most argumentative, uncouth and unpredictable group in Phuket that tourists are likely to come in contact with, with tourists complaining daily of unpleasant and often violent disputes with tuk-tuk drivers.

It is commonplace for tuk-tuk drivers to yell obscenities at tourists and even families. Foreign consular officials have frequently filed complaints with Thai officials to no avail.
The President of the Patong Entertainment Association, Weerawit Kuressombut, who is also a Patong councilor, told a meeting of Patong Municipal Council last week that it was time tourist rip-offs were brought under control. ''We can get everything else perfect, but if the rip-offs continue, eventually nobody will come,'' he said. ''The rip-offs are a threat to the future of Patong and Phuket," he told PHUKETWAN, a newspaper for tourists and expats.

Our readers are reminded of my August 29, 2011 posting, "German Tourist in Coma After Attack on Phuket," which described the unfortunate results of a tourist who had a dispute with a tuk-tuk driver.

Visitors should be reminded that these drivers are aggressive and unified in Phuket with Thai officials being unwilling or incapable of managing this growth threat for tourists.

Tourists who have unpleasant experiences with tuk-tuk drivers should communicate with their embassies and consular officials in writing so that such functionaries have evidence of this growing problem.

Unfortunately, the drivers of tuk-tuks are not deterred by families or tourists traveling together and have often called in other drivers to get the fares they demand.

Rather than risk a physical altercation and injury (that could spoil one's vacation), it is often preferable to agree to what a driver has demanded, particularly if it only amounts to a small sum.

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