Ride-hailing plan ignites protest
Taxi motorcyclists on warpath over move
Dozens of taxi motorcyclists yesterday protested outside the Transport Ministry against the planned legalisation of app-based ride-hailing services, as officials stood firm on the plan.
Protest leader Chalerm Changthongmadan said legalising the app-based Grab service would be grossly unfair as existing taxi motorcyclists were legally registered with the Land Transport Department, and would see their incomes drop.
"We are in trouble. Our income will disappear. Grab members come into conflict with us as they compete for passengers. We have repeatedly complained to various agencies, but the problem is not being resolved," he said.
He also claimed the app-based services were being legalised to favour foreign businesses, adding taxi motorcyclists had no say in these moves.
The rally of about 50 protesters moved on to the Tourism and Sports Ministry yesterday afternoon.
On Wednesday, deputy permanent secretary for transport Chirute Visalachitra said a panel researching ride-sharing had agreed to legalise the service.
It would ask Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob for approval to start drafting a new ministerial regulation to enable private car and motorcycle drivers to pick up passengers through ride-sharing apps.
Mr Chirute, the panel's chairman, said the new regulation, together with eligibility criteria for drivers and cars, should be finalised within 30 days.
Under it, private car owners will be able to apply to be "taxi drivers" with the Land Transport Department. After passing background checks, they would would be able to operate via smartphone applications only. The regulation is expected to take effect in March next year, he said. Given passengers' safety was a priority, Mr Chirute said, a facial recognition system would be used to verify drivers' identities.
However, he said legalising app-based motorcycle services would require an amendment to the Vehicle Act. Currently, the law requires motorcycle and car taxis to be registered as public vehicles, but app-based services cover private vehicles, Mr Chirute said.
Pressure to legalise ride-sharing -- a campaign promise of the Bhumjaithai Party -- is being spurred by complaints that conventional taxis regularly refuse passengers. However, taxi drivers, led by the Association of Public Taxi Motorists, last week rallied at the Transport Ministry to demand 8.5 billion baht in compensation if legalisation goes ahead.