Hundreds of moto-taxi drivers protested ride-sharing app Grab outside their Bangkok office yesterday afternoon, calling for the Singapore-based company to cease employing unregistered white-plated drivers for their GrabBike service.
Outside the ride-sharing firm’s office on Petchburi Road, drivers burned an orange uniform vest and put the name of Grab CEO Anthony Tan on a funeral wreath in front assembled reporters.
“Stop! Are you slaves to foreigners? This company broke the society. Greedy,” read one sign they placed in front of the building.
At the moment, GrabBike employs both moto-taxi drivers registered by the city as well as those using their personal bikes.
Currently, Thailand has no laws on the books specifically regulating ride-sharing services, though Grab drivers (and previously those working for Uber) have been occasionally caught and fined for using a personal vehicle for commercial purposes.
In a letter they submitted to Grab, the group “Fellow Moto-taxi Drivers” pleaded for the global company to stop “breaking the laws and hiring unregistered drivers personal vehicles.” The statement went on to accuse Grab of “affecting national security and destroying the country’s transport system.”
From what we’ve seen, incidents of registered moto-taxi drivers intimidating GrabBike drivers are probably affecting the passengers’ security more than the existence of a ride-share option. Earlier this year, a female passenger claimed she was prevented from riding with her GrabBike driver and forced to use a moto-taxi driver. In one of the first harassment cases, in 2016, a college student was also harassed by moto-taxi drivers when he called a GrabBike.
Yesterday’s protest leader said that while his moto-taxi group is not opposed to the idea of a ride-sharing app, they don’t expect to compete with unregistered drivers.
He demanded that the Department of Land Transport hold talks between Grab and the city’s moto-taxi drivers to come up with a solution.
Grab responded in a statement yesterday, saying that while they hoped for an “understanding” with the moto-taxi drivers, the benefits of ride-sharing apps for the general public should be the primary factor considered.
“We are willing to create an understanding with all sides and would like the government to consider and proceed in employing technology as a solution to the problem while putting the benefits to the public as a priority.”
Netizens, however, aren’t siding with the “legal” service. Many pointed out that while Grab charges based on distance — which is how the law says it is to be done — taxi drivers will routinely charge double or triple that rate. (A key reason drivers don’t want to work for Grab.)
“I’d rather have the city get rid of moto-taxi drivers,” one popular comment on Facebook said.
“So moto-taxi driver protest against Grab. Can we protest against moto-taxi drivers too?” another commenter asked.
Other joked that a protest only equaled lost fares.
“When the moto-taxi drivers were protesting, a lot of people, meanwhile, were calling GrabBike.”