Motorbike taxis played a big part in 2010 protests, seminar told

Motorbike taxis played a big part in 2010 protests, seminar told

MOTORCYCLE TAXIS played a big part in the 2010 red-shirt protests, a Chulalongkorn University (CU) seminar was told yesterday.

Claudio Sopranzetti, a postdoctoral student at Oxford University, said the Pheu Thai Party had hired the motorbike taxis because they knew about Bangkok streets and alleyways and could easily transport people to different parts of the city. Sopranzetti these taxis later set up their own pro-red groups.

These points were made at a seminar titled "Moving in the Cracks: Motorcycle Taxi Drivers, Street Protest and the Fragility of Power in the Thai capital" organised by CU's faculty of political science. However, participants at the forum did not discuss the National Council for Peace and Order's moves to reorganise the operation of motorcycle taxis in Bangkok and protect them from having to pay protection fees.

Meanwhile, Maj-General Apirat Kongsompong, a senior official with the NCPO and commander of the 1st Division, King's Guard, said the vests of motorcycle taxis would remain orange, though those who undergo and complete military-supervised training will have a green band added to their vest.

Motorcycle-taxi drivers have until tomorrow to register and will be issued temporary permits for the meantime.

Also, the vests and numbers the NCPO will assign to different motorbike-taxi drivers will belong to the wearers and cannot be sold or rented out, he said, adding that the vests with green bands would be available for distribution by September.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, a similar NCPO-supervised scheme with local motorcycle taxis will be started on Friday.

The provincial land transport office said 90 per cent of motorcycle taxis had registered, while other measures on improving services and controlling fees were under way.

Measures to reorder public transport will later expand to include commuter vans, songthaews (pickup with two facing benches for passengers) and tuk-tuks, said Sira Bunthammakul, chief of the provincial land transport office.

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