Welfare or politics?

People are earning good money in the motorcycle taxi business, but the problem is how to help drivers get their fair share.

Motorcycle taxi drivers at Soi Phetchkasem 48 shuttle customers, mostly students at Wat Chanpraditharam school, to their destinations. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN

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The motorcycle taxi business can be lucrative but not necessarily for the drivers themselves.

A government survey conducted in 2005 showed there were about 100,000 motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok.

They are supposed to register with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and, in return, receive special vests and benefits such as access to insurance.

However, many drivers have not done so and illegal motorcycle taxi queues have sprung up around the city under the control of mafia-style gangs and corrupt police.

That’s where the real money is.

According to Surasak Montree, 25, a motorcycle taxi driver at Soi Phahonyothin 26, each motorcycle taxi driver has to pay a queue manager between 5,000 and 300,000 baht for a queue vest, depending on the queue size.

He said as far as he knew, drivers working in inner city areas or housing estates paid a monthly fee of 200-1,500 baht to their controllers with gangs probably making millions of baht a month.

Prime Minister’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey says its time to get serious about the registration scheme to protect motor-cycle taxi drivers from the extortionists. He said drivers could then also benefit through enrolling in health insurance and social security schemes.

Motorcycle taxi drivers interviewed by the Bangkok Post said, however, they were uncertain if they would really benefit from the registration plan.

Wichit Pongsai, 34, shared the view of a number of other drivers that the Democrat Party was aiming more at attracting votes in future elections by offering them help.

Mr Wichit and others said they doubted the government would be able to stamp out extortion since it involved organised gangs in which policemen, soldiers, thetsakij inspectors and local influential people were involved.
Adapted from a story in today's Bangkok Post by Anucha Charoenpo.

welfare – help given, especially by the state or an organization, to people who need it; good care and living conditions สวัสดิภาพ
shuttle – to take people frequently between two places; to travel frequently between two places ส่งไปส่งมา
destination – the place where someone or something is going  จุดหมายปลายทาง
lucrative – earning a lot of money ที่มีกำไรงาม
conduct – to do something in an organised way; to carry out — ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
register – to put your name and other information on an official list in order to be allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, stay in a hotel etc ลงทะเบียน
vest – a sleeve-less covering for the top part of your body
benefit – an advantage you get from a situation; a helpful or good effect, or something intended to help ผลประโยชน์
access – having the opportunity to have or use something มีโอกาสในการใช้
insurance – an arrangement in which you regularly pay an insurance company an amount of money so that they will give you money if something you own is damaged, lost, or stolen, or if you die or are ill or injured การประกัน
illegal – against the law  ผิดกฎหมาย
taxi queue – a group of taxis which line up to wait for customers
spring up – to appear or to be produced suddenly and quickly ทะลึ่งพรวด
housing estate – an area containing a large number of houses or apartments built close together at the same time บ้านจัดสรร
fee – an amount of money that you pay to be allowed to do something ค่าธรรมเนียม
scheme – a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people  แผนการ โครงการ
extortion – the crime of trying to obtain something by force or threat การขู่กรรโชก  รีดไถ
extortionist – a person who commits the crime of extortion ผู้ร้ายคดีขู่กรรโชก โจรรีดไถ
enrol - register, sign up สมัคร
view – a personal opinion, belief, or attitude about a particular situation or subject ความคิดเห็น 
stamp out – to end something bad or unpleasant by taking strong action ยุติ, ดับ
influential – of a person who has the power to affect a situation มีอิทธิพล

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager