Mr Pichit said he expects to meet representatives from California-based Uber within a week or two to discuss the firm’s claim that the Thai law governing public transportation is obsolete and its service cannot be registered as public transportation.
In a recently released statement, Uber called for legal amendments to better enable its service to operate in Thailand in the wake of a crackdown on the ride-hailing taxis especially in Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
The company claims it is not a taxi service, but a ride-sharing service provided by smartphone applications and there are currently no regulations that recognise the ride-sharing service.
Simultaneously, an online campaign is under way calling on the Transport Ministry to legalise the ride-sharing service that operates through contacts made via smartphone applications.
Mr Pichit said the service provided by Uber is illegal and the company is required to follow the law and related regulations.
He insisted that legal amendments, if any, will not be carried out to accommodate a specific group of operators.
Currently, the Department of Land Transport (DLT) is amending ministerial regulations to improve the quality of taxi services and passenger safety so more people decide to use the taxis, he added.
DLT Director-General Sanit Phromwong said yesterday (Mar 10) that the use of smart phone applications to hail taxis is not illegal and the problem is with the use of private cars to pick up passengers for a fee.
He said personal cars are not allowed to be used as paid public transport and the service is illegal under Sections 21 and 60 of the Vehicle Act. Moreover, the drivers do not have a public transport driving licence.
Mr Sanit said the department already held talks with the operators to inform them their cars must be registered as taxis, noting that the regulations exist to ensure the safety of passengers and the public.
Experts said the ride-sharing service has gained tremendous popularity as more and more people are drawn to the convenience it provides. Also, many preferred the service over the taxis after a run of bad experiences.
The complainants said some taxis refused to pick them up, abandoned them half way through the ride, cheated them on fares or were downright rude. The experts warned the recent crackdown on the ride-sharing service might pit regular customers of the service against the authorities.
On Monday (Mar 6), decoys were deployed posing as customers to catch owners of the ride-sharing vehicles in a joint operation conducted by the DLT, the military and the police in Bangkok. The operation netted 18 offenders, including the owner of a brand-new car.
Meanwhile, five Uber drivers were reportedly fined HK$10,000 (B45,600) each yesterday after being found guilty of driving without a permit and third-party insurance in Hong Kong.
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