The Chiang Mai land transport office is launching tougher operations to crack down on illegal Uber and Grab services, sparking fierce criticism from netizens who say they provide a decent alternative to conventional taxis.
Netizens were angry over a viral video clip posted on a Facebook page by Surapin Khomranats, in which a provincial transport official arrests an Uber driver in a sting operation. The official, posing as a legitimate passenger, called him to the office. Authorities are seen turning up at the vehicle and fining the driver.
The video has drawn criticism from netizens who complain of poor and expensive services provided by conventional taxis and song taew in Chiang Mai. They have called on authorities to legalise app-based taxi services. "I have used both Uber and normal taxis and can say for sure Uber is better in terms of services, fares and access," netizen Charatwit Saengchan said.
Chanchai Keerapaeng, the Chiang Mai land transport office chief, said the incident on the clip occurred on Monday. He defended the sting, saying the office needs to use all measures to crack down on illegal taxi services or staff could be accused of dereliction of duty. The authorities arrested five Uber taxi drivers Wednesday. They were fined up to 2,000 baht each.
The office receives many complaints from legitimate taxi service operators about the increasing number of illegal taxis in the province despite the fact the office had rejected a request by Uber and Grab Car to launch services there. More than 300 Uber and illegal Grab taxis were plying the roads in Chiang Mai while the number of legitimate taxis is about 400.
More than 100 drivers found to run the illegal services had been summoned to report to the office. Just eight of them came, he said.
The office is considering confiscating the car registrations and driving licences of those who fail to report when they renew their annual car registration, said Mr Charnchai.
An Uber spokesperson said “"Uber remains committed to creating reliable transportation for everyone. We will continue to engage with relevant authorities in order for the benefits of ridesharing to be recognised in Thailand".