As usual, any person – including tourists – found operating a car or motorbike without the correct licence will be fined, explained Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen.
However, under the campaign the person or business who rented out the vehicle to the unlicensed tourist will also be fined B2,000 per instance, he told The Phuket News.
Further, rental operators caught repeatedly renting out motorbikes to people who do not have motorbike licences stand to have their permit to operate as a rental vehicle business revoked, Gen Teeraphol warned.
The campaign will be specifically focussed on motorbike rental shops, Gen Teeraphol said.
“There are three criteria that motorbike rental operators must abide by under the campaign. The motorbike must be in good condition, the person renting the motorbike must have the right licence and the rental shop must provide a helmet to the person renting the motorbike and the person who will be riding as passenger,” he said.
Provincial Police Deputy Commander Col Sermpan Sirikong told The Phuket News by phone on Monday (April 23), “We are taking this campaign seriously. Rental shops will not be able to claim they did not know about not being allowed to rent out a motorbike to a tourist who doesn’t have a licence. We have published this campaign in every district and I have a list of all rental shops and their locations.”
In explaining the punishment on offer for repeat-offender motorbike rental shops, Col Sermpan said, “If rental shops are caught repeatedly allowing unlicensed people – including tourists – to rent motorbikes, the police will send a formal request to the Phuket Governor, and he will send his own request to the Phuket office of the Department of Business Development asking them to revoke the shop’s permit to operate as a vehicle rental business.”
However, Col Sermpan noted that some reprieve is coming for tourists being stopped and fined for not having an International Driving Permit in addition to their regular licence issued in their home country, a practice that has long been required of tourists wanting to avoid being fined but widely perceived as nothing more than a money-spinner for local police.
Instead, Traffic Police will now recognise licences held by tourists if the licences are issued by any of the 134 countries that already recognise International Driving Permits, Col Sermpan explained.
A note of caution, however, is that Col Sermpan made clear, “Police will check that the licence is appropriate for the vehicle that the tourist is operating. If the tourist has only a car licence and has been been caught riding a rental motorbike in Phuket, the tourist will be fined.
“But if they do have the right licence we will not be so strict on the size of the engine of the motorbike they are renting here,” he said.
Col Sermpan pointed out that the campaign to target motorbike rental operators was actually launched in February this year. (See story here.)
However, he admitted that after the launch Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong was forced to plainly order police to pay more attention to motorbike rental operators. Governor Norraphat publicly, specifically and clearly gave the order earlier this month after it came to light that that road-accident deaths in Phuket in 2017 jumped by more than 30% compared with 2016. (See story here.)
In handing down his pre-Songkran order to target motorbike rental shops on the island, Governor Norraphat noted, “Officials must work hard to save tourists and reduce the number of accidents.
“I am very concerned about this issue, that tourists need to learn Thai road laws and how to safely drive on the roads in Phuket. This knowledge can protect them from accidents, which is vital,” he said.
That message was repeated by Vice Governor Prakob Wongmaneerung just days later, following the death of 29-year-old Chinese tourist Li Jing in a motorbike accident on April 14 – Phuket’s only fatality during this year’s Songkran Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign. (See story here.)
Again, Col Sermpan maintained that the death of Mr Li was not a factor in the move to ramp up the rental motorbike crackdown.
“It is not because the Chinese tourist died, it’s because lots of tourists rent motorbikes in Phuket,” he said.
Regarding the death of Mr Li, Col Sermpan said he had yet to confirm whether or not Mr Li had a motorbike licence, or whether the rental operator in Phuket had checked that Mr Li had any such licence before renting the motorbike out to him.
Pattarawadee Phanbua, head of the Phuket Tourist Assistance Centre, operated by the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, confirmed her office was tasked with informing tourists of the campaign.
“It is good information that tourists need to be aware of. That’s why we have to share this information and make sure tourists know the rules and their rights before renting a car or motorbike in Phuket,” she said.
Ms Pattarawadee told The Phuket News that the idea to target rental operators originated from the Department of Disaster Prevention & Mitigation Phuket office (DDPM-Phuket), which drafted a list of guidelines to follow in rolling out the campaign.
“After the idea was presented, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong wanted Phuket bike and car rental shops to provide services that comply with the law because a lot of tourists have a lot of problems regarding this,” she said.
The guidelines drawn up by the DDPM are as follows:
- All rentals must be provided under a contract and the rental operator must collect evidence of car rental information, including copies of the customer’s passport and driver’s license.
- All rental vehicles must be registered and taxed, and evidence of this must be presented to officials on request.
- Vehicles are to be rented only to persons who have a driving license issued under Thai law or a driver’s license issued in a country that Thailand has accepted or permitted.
- Any vehicle rental operators who violate the “Acts of 2522” (the Vehicle Act and the Road Traffic Act, see here and here) shall be liable to a fine not exceeding B2,000.
- In the case of motorcycle rental, a helmet must be provided for both the driver and the pillion passenger.
- Documents proving the vehicle’s registration and insurance, and the rental agreement, must be given to the person renting the vehicle.