#BanFoodpanda: Outrage after delivery giant vows to fire protester for ‘terrorism’

One of Bangkok’s largest food delivery services is on blast from a water cannon of fury today after it vowed to terminate an employee because he attended an anti-government protest.

Calls have echoed from consumers and some restaurants to boycott Foodpanda after the company said it would fire a rider photographed at a protest in accordance with company’s policies “against violence and terrorism.”

Several protesters including journalists were injured Sunday at a rally against mismanagement and slow procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Hundreds of anti-government protesters calling for PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s resignation marched on the Government House, where they were met by riot police who attacked them with chemical-laced water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Responding to a government supporter who pointed out on Twitter that a Foodpanda rider who joined the protest was seen burning a royal portrait – a taboo once difficult to imagine – the company quickly responded that it would review the situation and immediately let the rider go. It said the rider violated its policies “against violence and terrorism.”

The royal family is protected by law from anything deemed an insult but has become openly criticized since last year by those demanding reforms of the institution.

The company’s response prompted #BanFoodpanda to trend on Thai Twitter with more than 1.2 million tweets since Sunday afternoon. Many people claimed to have deleted their accounts and removed the application from their smartphones. 

Late Monday afternoon, after this story was published, the company reversed its position, saying it would not fire the employee – but was still looking for him.

“Regarding the rider incident that took place yesterday, we are still trying to find out the identity of the rider. … [F]oodpanda assures freedom of speech and expression is not terrorism and the rider will not be dismissed due to this incident.”

Foodpanda is owned by Berlin-based Delivery Hero. An email to its media office had not been returned as of publication time. Local Foodpanda representatives had not responded to messages seeking comment.

A few restaurants joined in condemning the platform, saying that they would withdraw as vendors.

“Tomorrow we will shut our operation via Foodpanda until we could proceed on canceling our partnership or there are further changes made,” wrote restaurant owner Komdech “Chris” Kongsuwun of Chris Steaks and Burgers, which is famous for offering the country’s biggest burgers. “Customers can still order our food from other platforms such as Line Man and Grab Food.”

The owner of a barbecue joint called Yang Hai, which has more than 300 branches nationwide, said the restaurant would drop the service. “You will lose at least THB6,000 per day [from each venue]. With all of my 300 branches, you can do all the math,” the chain wrote on Facebook.

Update: This story has been updated with an additional response from Foodpanda.

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