Tuk-tuk 'endangered species' in Trang

Tuk-tuk 'endangered species' in Trang

TRANG - Tuk-tuk drivers warn the iconic frog-head three-wheeler which has been the province's symbol for decades is in danger of extinction because of the rising cost of keeping them on the roads.

                            Waiting for passengers.

The tut-tuks were first imported to Thailand in 1959 during the administration of then prime minister Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.

Around 5,000 of the frog-head taxis were brought into the country for use in provinces nationwide before their importation was later banned by prime minister Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn.

Yeekeng Wongsamphan, chairman of Tuk-tuk Operators Club, said Trang used to have around 550 tuk-tuks,   but only 200 are still on the roads in the province.

Changing society meant more people had personal cars and the prevalence of motorcycle taxis had reduced the popularity of this type of tuk-tuk, which is usually slower than other types of vehicles due to its small single-cylinder engine.

Mr Yeekeng said tuk-tuk drivers were currently unable to cruise their vehicles around the town because fuel now costs more than 30 baht a litre and they cannot charge higher fares because passengers will turn to other public services.

With such constraints, he said, drivers are left with only small earnings at the end of each day. Some drivers  have had to stop offering the service altogether as they cannot compete. Many drivers have no choice but to park their tuk-tuks near the market, or a bank or department store and hope passengers will come to them.

Therefore, the Tuk-tuk Operators Club of Trang has urged the province to launch a conservation programme to ensure that these old, iconic vehicles remain a visible symbol of the province, serving passengers 'needs for the foreseeable future.

Back in 2010, the price of a tuk-tuk in Trang was around 20,000 baht, but some owners trying to remain competitive decorated them and improved the performance by installing a two-cylinder engine, so the price had risen to over 100,000 baht each, Mr Yeekeng said.

He said the frog-head tuk-tuk is also still in use in other provinces, attracting large numbers of tourists in places such as Koh Samui and Ayutthaya.

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