Uber confident on legal clearance for services in Thailand

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UBER has expressed confidence that it can clear within five months the legal hurdles that have dogged its taxi-service operation in Thailand.

The Thai operation of the US-based company put out the timeline after its representatives met officials from the Department of Land Transport late last month.

Sirupa Jungsalat, general manager of Uber Thailand, said yesterday on the local operation’s third anniversary that the company was committed to continuing its business in Thailand, and that it expected its services would be covered by Thai regulations within five months. The company is due to meet transport officials for a follow-up meeting within two weeks.

Sirupa said the company proposed at the March meeting that the officials consider case studies of how Uber operates in a number of countries in guiding their policies towards what it calls a ride-sharing service. Uber, in meetings with the government officials, has maintained it is not a taxi service.

However, Thai regulations have so far not recognised ride-sharing services booked with smartphone applications.

Sirupa said that drivers under Uber’s Malaysian operation could provide a model for its Thai services. In that country, drivers who pass the training requirements set by Uber would be granted a licence for what would be considered a new type of transport service. An alternative could entail Uber’s driver-partners applying for a new class of licence to operate a ride-sharing service, she said.

“We intend to work with the government to find a solution to help people to benefit from the Uber service. We proposed to the department the case studies and operational models of Uber in many countries and they can assess which one is the most suitable for the Thai market,” Siripa said.

In the region, Uber operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. The company said it had received a positive response from government for its ride-sharing model to be extended to Myanmar and Cambodia.

Siripa, who has been general manger of Uber Thailand for a month, said the company faced the challenge in Thailand of winning over the government and the people to the concept of its ride-sharing business.

“At this moment, the big challenge is to educate and inform people that Uber services are still available as usual. Another thing is to get people who do not know about Uber and ride-sharing services to get to benefit from the convenience of it. This applies for driver-partners and riders,” she said.

She said Uber enabled many drivers to earn between Bt20,000 and Bt40,000 a month. Uber takes 25 per cent of the cut from its services, up from 20 per cent previously.

Sirapa said its driver-partners and passengers alike would be protected by Uber’s legal mechanisms in case of accidents, but she would not disclose the details.

The government has warned that passengers in Uber and other ride-sharing vehicles are not covered if they are involved in accidents.

Uber wants to expand its operations from Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It sees strong demand in Chiang Rai and Pattaya, and plans to offer services in both cities this year.

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