[Bangkok Post] The Centre for Preventing and Suppressing Organised Crimes Targeting Tourists on Phuket has arrested the drivers of 434 vehicles carrying black licence plates, which are used as taxis, and charged them with vehicular misuse.
Phuket governor Maitree Inthusut said the drivers of the illegal taxis were arrested during a joint operation between police and the Provincial Transport Office in six locations between Aug 10 and 29.
The drivers will be questioned to find out who are the people behind the illegal taxi operations.
Mr Maitree said provincial authorities had tried to reorganise the black-plate taxi operation by allowing the owners to register and become legal. There are 2,882 taxis registered with the transport office but only 1,133 of them have completed the change-over process and now work legally.
He said the remaining taxis still have financial problems in being able to become legal so the province was assisting them to find funding sources.
Mr Maitree said the concessions for limousine services at Phuket international airport, granted to two companies, have expired and authorities were now in the process of setting up a new system for the service.
The arrest of the illegal taxi drivers was carried out with the cooperation of the Department of Special Investigation after a large number of complaints regarding crimes targeting tourists were lodged, particularly from foreign embassies in Thailand. Illegal taxi services were one of the more serious issues.
Tourists from Europe, including non-EU members, totalled 4 million last year, up 6% from 2011. Phuket was one of their favourite stops in Thailand.