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Smart-Card System For Cabs To Eliminate Mafia Role At Suvarnabhumi Airport


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THE NATIONAL Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will introduce a smart-card system for the taxi queue at Suvarnabhumi Airport in a bid to end the "mafia-style operation" there.


A computerised system, linked to the database of registered taxi drivers' personal history and fingerprints, will issue queue cards to taxis waiting to pick up passengers from the airport.


"We expect to see clear results within one month from now," 11th Military Circle chief Maj-General Nirundorn Samutsakorn said yesterday.


He said the "mafia-style operation" allowed taxi drivers to select long-haul passengers and such selective services make it hard for short-haul passengers to get a taxi ride.


A short ride from the airport starts from just Bt35, while a ride to faraway destinations like Pattaya can earn a taxi |driver up to Bt3,000.


Taxi drivers, therefore, often pay under-the-table fees to mafia-style figures to ensure they get long-haul passengers.


"In addition to this, we have also received complaints about taxis leaving passengers midway, |overcharging, lack of manners |and involvement in illegal activities," Nirundorn said.


The swift move to regulate taxi services at Suvarnabhumi Airport is in response to NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-ocha's policy to bring about reforms.


The NCPO has tasked the First Army Area to deal with illegal activities involving taxis, motorcyle-taxis and public vans. The First Army Area has delegated the responsibility of dealing with the illegal activities of taxis, including at the airports, to the 11th Military Circle.


"We have decided to act at Suvarnabhumi Airport first so as to bolster the image of this international airport and Thailand," Nirundorn said.


Normally, people can get a taxi ride out of Suvarnabhumi Airport by queuing up at a taxi counter on the facility's first floor.


After informing the staff at the counter where they want to go, the staff will tell them which cab they can get in. Each ride via the counter - which records the taxi's licence plate number and passenger de-tails - comes with an additional charge of Bt50, which is legally allowed.


Passengers who wish to avoid |the additional charge can get a taxi from the fourth floor of the airport where departure air passengers arrive, many of them by taxi. Passengers who opt for this option have to flag down the taxi themselves.


Nirundorn said many taxi-related problems happened because of "mafia-style operations". According to him, some 7,000 taxis have been serving passengers from Suvarnabhumi Airport.


He reckoned that men in uniforms were behind the "mafia-style operations", saying that he knew who were involved.


"At this point, we are simply asking for cooperation," he said.


He hinted that if those involved were not cooperative, soldiers might be dispatched to monitor taxi counters at the airport.


Nirundorn is also considering a move to propose an amendment to the Airport Act, which does not cover the relatively new Suvarnabhumi Airport, so as to find long-term |measures to prevent mafia figures from re-entering this large aviation facility.


"We need to do something. Or else, the mafia-style operations will return as soon as the soldiers leave," he said.




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Passengers who wish to avoid |the additional charge can get a taxi from the fourth floor of the airport where departure air passengers arrive, many of them by taxi. Passengers who opt for this option have to flag down the taxi themselves.



I thought the turnstile's were there to stop this happening, not sure how this is working out



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My ride from the airport is about 80Km. Mostly they use the meter but at times they want a flat fee. When I came back

this time, he wanted a flat fee, he asked for 700 Baht. The meter is usually a little over 500 Baht, plus the 50 Baht charge, so

the 700 Baht wasn't so bad.

We chatted mostly in Thai and I told him I well understand the situation with the taxi and that I always give a nice tip.


He paid the toll, 40 Baht and I gave him 800 Baht as I know he most likely has no passenger back to the airport. He was

happy and I was OK with it.


Over the past twenty years, I only had one taxi from the airport where the driver was plain out to rip me off, so with that in

mind, I have no issues with the taxi.

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I thought the turnstile's were there to stop this happening, not sure how this is working out




The turnstiles are there but are bi-directional nothing to stop a passenger travelling up to 4th Floor Departures crossing the Privates cars drop off area and then pass through the turnstile to taxi drop off point, well there was not 5 weeks ago last time I departed. Airport side of the turnstiles is the official Smoking Area so I stand there after being dropped off by taxi and also go for another fix after having checked in before heading to immigration so I probably spend a good 10-15 minutes next to these turnstiles on every trip and see people departing to pick up a taxi which has just dropped off.

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A short ride from the airport starts from just Bt35, while a ride to faraway destinations like Pattaya can earn a taxi driver up to Bt3,000.


Last time I travelled to Pattaya it cost about Bt1500. Have the prices sky-rocketed recently?


It is good that the army plans to clean this up. In theory they are more difficult to corrupt than a civilian government.

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Smart card system set up for taxis at airport 'only a partial solution'






Airports of Thailand traffic control officials prepare to detain a driver who parked his taxi on the departure floor at Suvarnabhumi Airport for too long. The car on the left patrols the floor, chasing away lingering cabs.



Suvarnabhumi International Airport is plagued by "mafia" taxi drivers who are notorious for turning off meters and charging unwitting foreign tourists extortionate fares.


The junta is trying to end this problem by introducing smart cards to make cheating drivers accountable, but there are doubts over the scheme's effectiveness given the complicated taxi set-up at the airport.


An Airports of Thailand official, who asked not to be named, said there were two groups of taxi drivers - those registered with the airport on the ground floor and those who drop off passengers on the departure floor. The so-called "mafia" drivers were among the latter, he said.


"We can't control the taxis on the departure floor because they don't belong to the airport system. We can only control the taxis registered to us," the official said.


That was why some taxis can offer fixed prices that are much more expensive than the regular meter fare and get away with it.


An AOT traffic control official on the departure floor said most drivers were honest but there were around 100 drivers a day who came to the airport to swindle foreigners.


The official, who withheld his name, said they would charge Bt600 or Bt700 to go to Bangkok, and around Bt1,500 to go to Pattaya, as they targeted foreigners.


"They just park and wave at foreigners to get in their car. We have to chase them away with cars and motorbikes and then they circle around the airport and come back. They're not scared of us," he said.


On this day, he tried to detain a taxi that had parked too long and was nearly hit when the taxi sped off.


The National Council for Peace and Order announced on Wednesday that it would introduce the smart card system for registered taxis at the airport in a bid to end the "mafia-style operation".


However, the AOT official said this solution was unrelated to the problem as it only targeted registered taxis, which were already tightly controlled and monitored. It wouldn't affect the unregistered taxis.


Penprapa, a taxi booth operator, said that there was no chance of dodgy drivers infiltrating the ground floor.


"Taxi drivers can't choose their passengers and they don't know where the passengers are heading beforehand. They queue up, then we call them to the customers, then they get the address," she said.


Charas Sunsrisak, 60, a taxi driver registered at the airport since it opened eight years ago, agreed.


"How can we be mafia here? There are lots of regulations, procedures and records being kept," he said.


The registration process involves drivers providing their personal history and presenting a clean criminal record. They also have to give their name and licence number to the taxi booth operator and the passenger every time they take a job.


The smart card, which is linked to the database of a driver's personal history and fingerprint, would only make things more convenient for registered taxis, Charas said, as the smart card meant they bypass the booth operator.


The traffic control official said that the AOT could not deal with unregistered taxis because they did not scare them.


"We have no power to deter them because we can't arrest or charge them. Sometimes we detain them and hand them over to the police, but the police let them go with a warning because they didn't break any laws," he said.


He proposed that a law be issued which allows AOT officials to charge crooked taxi drivers in the same way Don Muang Airport did.




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