Government will work with Uber to legalize service


Thailand’s Ministry of Transport said last week it will work with California-based ride-sharing service Uber to find a way to legalize the service in the Kingdom, where it is currently regarded as illegal, but is gaining in popularity among consumers.

Uber has been operating in Thailand for more than two years and the service is popular with middle class consumers. But the authorities have determined that the service does not comply with local laws. Thai law doesn’t forbid taxi app services — in fact, the government set up its own “All Thai Taxi” app and Grab Taxi’s licensed taxi service is legal. The problem is that Thai laws do not permit consumer vehicles to be used for commercials purposes.

While consumers appear to like the service, the competition definitely does not. Taxi and minivan drivers have been reporting Uber drivers to police, and at least 23 Uber drivers were recently arrested in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

In response, Uber has asked its customers and drivers in Thailand to sign a digital petition to the government as a sign of their support.

“The government wants Uber to be regulated under the Motor Vehicle Act, which was drafted over 38 years ago when the concept of ridesharing and smartphone technology didn’t exist,” Uber wrote on its website in response to the crackdown.

“By insisting on this, the country risks missing out on the full benefits that ridesharing brings to riders, drivers and cities. It also goes against the government’s ‘Thailand’s 4.0 initiative,’ which aims to make the country into a regional hub of technology and innovation,” the company wrote.

An official at the Ministry of Transport said the ministry will commission a study on ridesharing applications and it will take at least six months to complete. Officials from the ministry met with Uber representatives last week to discuss the situation and attempt to find solutions.

“At the meeting, Uber urged the government to amend the existing Motor Vehicle Act so that it allows for ridesharing in Thailand. Uber is pleased that the government agreed to conduct an independent third party research into ride-sharing regulations and the benefits they bring to Thailand,” said Amy Kunrojpanya, Uber’s Director of Policy and Communications, Asia Pacific.

In the meantime, Uber said it will still operate its service in Thailand despite its questionable legality. Drivers caught ridesharing are subject to a $57 fine.

Grab, which also offers a GrabCar service that uses consumer vehicles, told the TechCrunch website:“We are working closely with the Department of Land Transport and local governments to understand how we can work together to support passengers and driver-partners in Thailand. Grab is appreciative of the support we have received over the years from the Thai government and people of all walks of life.”