Both companies have temporarily halted operations following order from Department of Land Transport
Following Thai government’s recent announcement of motorbike taxi app ban, uberMOTO and GrabBike finally announced they are temporarily halting the service.
uberMOTO made the first move on Tuesday noon, as a result of its discussion with the government.
“Despite strong support from Thai riders and drivers, we have decided to temporarily suspend our Bangkok pilot, starting at noon, while we work on creating modern regulations for app-based motorbike services with the government,” according to a statement on their website.
On Thursday, GrabBike followed suit by announcing the indefinite halt of its Ride service. However, its Delivery service will continue to operate with Ride drivers being allocated to the division.
“Grab Thailand is a local company and we are committed to providing safe rides for all and improving the lives of our drivers. We look forward to discussions with the government and all industry stakeholders to ensure that the GrabBike service operates within the proper guidelines, and work together towards a well-regulated ecosystem of complementary transport services,” wrote a Grab spokesperson.
Thailand is definitely not the first to ban ride-hailing apps. But unlike Indonesia which cancelled the ban in less than 24 hours after a Twitter-based intervention by its president, there is no sign that the ban will be lifted.
Bangkok Post deputy editor Nopporn Wong-Anan in his opinion piece heavily criticised the new policy.
He pointed out that not only that there is no clear explanation which regulation is being violated in this case, but there is also no reason for the military to be involved in this matter.
“One wonders what army personnel have to do with regulating motorcycle taxi drivers,” he writes.
He further explains that since ousting the civilian government in May 2014, the army has become involved in numerous businesses from overpriced government lottery tickets to raids on mafia figures’ homes, and now, the regulation of this mode of public transport.
From an outsider’s view, mixing national security with business competition seems like a perplexing move.
But then again, things are done differently in each country.
Though both companies have expressed interests in further continuing discussions with the government, strong involvement from the military side might make it harder.
It might be more feasible (though not always easier) for Indonesia to turn things around as it had a better democratic process and a President who also happens to be a huge fan of digital economy.
Indonesia also have strong local players such as Go-Jek and other smaller motorbike taxi apps, which help defer the “foreigners taking over locals’ job” argument even before it shows up.
If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are still struggling to see it.
Image Credit: Joshua Earle on Unsplash
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