Uber urges licensing framework
Malaysian model proposed to regulator
Uber Thailand has proposed that local authorities impose a licensing system to legalise the burgeoning ride-hailing service industry, following a model like the one in Malaysia, where the government finally drew up rules for app-based public transport network companies.
"We're ready to comply with the proposed conceptual model to allow smooth operations in Thailand," said Siripa Jungsawat, newly appointed general manager of Uber Thailand.
Since it started operating in Thailand three years ago, Uber is still illegal here.
"We continue to operate as usual in Thailand without suspension," Ms Siripa said.
In March, the Department of Land Transport (DLT) and police caught and fined dozens of Uber drivers because authorities said the ride-hailing service disrupted the traditional public transport system and encouraged Thais to break the law.
Ms Siripa said Uber remains committed to creating reliable transport for everyone.
"We continue to work with authorities to make clear the benefits of ride-hailing in the country," she said.
Four countries in Southeast Asia -- Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia -- have licensed Uber. It is in a pilot project phase in Vietnam and Myanmar.
Ms Siripa said Uber is suggesting two regulatory models for Thai authorities. Malaysia's licensing model suits Thailand's business conditions, she said.
In Malaysia, ride-hailing service providers must apply for an operating licence and drivers must have a driving licence. Service fares are determined by the market.
"We hope to reach a resolution with the DLT by 2017," Ms Siripa said.
She insisted that Uber is committed to the Thai market, where the usage of smartphones continues to proliferate. The company has enjoyed high growth in numbers of riders and drivers.
Ms Siripa said Thailand passed the early-adopter stage for ride-hailing services as locals saw that it complements transport options reliably and safely.
Based on an internal survey, one-fifth of Uber Thailand users still use subway and skytrain services. Some 97% of Uber users utilise other transport platforms.
Ms Siripa acknowledged that the current legal hurdle has dented potential users' confidence in the service.
Uber is trying to make local authorities understand that ride-hailing can help the country reduce urban traffic, she said.
Uber has continued to expand services in Thailand this year, launching in Chiang Rai and Pattaya after its start in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The company recently partnered with mobile messaging app Line to allow Uber riders to place a direct call for its service.
Uber operates in 450 cities in 74 countries. As of June 2016, Uber had logged 2 billion trips globally, or more than 5 million trips a day on average.
The company boasts 1.5 million drivers around the globe.