Red taxis take fight to Uber in Chiang Mai

Red taxis take fight to Uber in Chiang Mai

A red songtaew taxi is the general public vehicle for both locals and visitors of Chiang Mai.
A red songtaew taxi is the general public vehicle for both locals and visitors of Chiang Mai.

A group of local drivers of Chiang Mai's iconic red songtaew taxi is mounting a new movement against unauthorised cab-hailing services such as Uber and Grab Taxi in the province, claiming they represent unfair and illegal competition.

They have formed a team of roughly 200 songtaew taxi drivers who go hunting for Uber and Grab Taxi cars and take photos of them which they then send to local land transport authorities as evidence that illegal taxis are operating.

The 200 drivers yesterday gathered at the office of cooperatives regulating the red songtaew service in the province and revealed they had already sent pictures of dozens of such illegal taxi cars to authorities.

The move, however, came at the same time as more than 8,100 people signed an online campaign, initiated by change.org four days ago, calling for better regulation of red songtaew taxis in Chiang Mai, which are said to provide a poor service.

The consumers argued the red songtaew have long held a monopoly on the taxi market, leaving consumers with little choice but to choose one "one of the worst taxi services". Some back the choice that Uber represents, even though transport authorities do not recognise the service.

Singkham Nanti, president of the red songteaw taxi cooperatives, said he oversees the operation of more than 2,800 songtaew taxis, which are permitted to transport passengers.

He admitted some drivers might be rude to customers because they are not well-educated, yet the cooperatives have been trying to improve their services through better training.

Chanchai Kilapaeng, chief of Chiang Mai's land transport office, said the office has received information and pictures of more than 30 Uber and Grab Taxi cars and would next notify them to come and pay a fine for operating unauthorised taxis.

In Bangkok, a combined force of land transport officials, police and soldiers detained 18 Uber taxi drivers in a sting operation yesterday, said Sanit Promwong, director-general of the Department of Land Transport.

The unauthorised taxi drivers were fined 2,000 baht each and required to undergo a three-hour session to change their attitude on the need to comply with the land transport law, he said.

The department will keep a record of information on the drivers in case they violate the law again, he said.

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