TL:DR #4 Grab, Line Man [and/or Line Woman or Trans and Gender Non-Conforming] and Other Ride Hailing Services in Thailand – What Direction for Regulation?

Thailand’s Transport Ministry has reported the announcement of a Ministerial Regulation covering online ride-hailing services in the Royal Gazette [1], and therefore the rules have become enforceable, with further criteria and conditions to be announced and implemented by state agencies [2].

Thailand should not miss out on potential opportunities to improve economic and social betterment, although the overall long-term economic and social efficacy or a ‘sharing economy’ and ‘uber economy’ is up for debate [3]. Thailand has taken advantage of many recent opportunities in the tech sector, both private and public, with mixed results [4] and a high adoption rate for fintech products such as PromptPay enabling efficient and lower transaction cost payments on an interoperable basis. Amidst a wave of pandemics, consumer behaviour has significantly altered, and this has resulted in a progression of demand-supply economics between consumers and technology that underpins food delivery and ride-hailing apps.

However, the balance of rights in this sector is complex [5] and as is the case in many global debates, the media portrayal of opinions indicates some polarisation of views [6]. In the United Kingdom and Europe, results of workers and unions seeking to establish that they should be treated as employees and afforded the same protections under the law have sometimes been successful [7], but more recently in relation to Deliveroo drivers, the fact that drivers can be ‘substituted’ was deemed to be enough by the Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom to rule that the Deliveroo riders are not in an ‘employment relationship’ and also do not fall within the scope of trade union freedom right under Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights [8].

This leaves drivers who are apparently not ‘workers’ in a precarious situation, with significantly less power than ‘traditional’ workers in traditional non-disruptive sectors.

This issue has not eluded Thailand. Traditional taxi drivers have been vocal with their concerns over alleged anti-competitive practices, whereby they have to conform with fairly rigid rules prescribing vehicle types, passenger numbers and fares, and the ‘gig economy’ operators are afforded, according to them, an uneven playing field [9].

On the one hand, the advantages of the regulations are:

  1. To ensure the market is not left unregulated, as it has been
  2. To recognise the practice, and therefore allow passenger safety controls
  3. To ensure Thailand remains competitive, and that competition is fostered between traditional operators and new ‘ride-sharing’ and gig economy operators
  4. Reduction of costs for the consumer
  5. Better choice for the consumer based on need

The disadvantages for traditional operators and challenges for regulation are:

  1. Potential exploitation of the gig economy workers who may not be deemed ‘workers’ so far as labour protection is concerned – which can include unreasonable working hours, below minimum salary thresholds through ‘commercial deductions’ and excessive monitoring and control – cameras in cars
  2. Potential discrimination, by operators and by consumers, based on knowledge of driver profiles
  3. Trading efficiency of choice and flexibility against job security, the costs of investment in the vehicle and other materials, or charging excessive ‘rents’ or hiring costs to drivers for their use of non-owned assets
  4. Passing on additional expenses to drivers, for cancellations during pick up periods or unjustified/unproven complaints

It remains to be seen how Thai regulations will be positioned to adapt and develop to the benefits and challenges of the so-called Gig economy in this sector. However, first steps have been taken to ensure there is at least some regulation, and room for the stage agencies to adjust regulations after observing the market and market participant responses.

The issues involved are clearly not as simple as they may be portrayed by the entrepreneurially and market disruptor focussed mindset segment of society. ‘Disrupting’ for the sake of disrupting can be damaging, but gently disturbing embedded inefficiencies and offering substitution or better alternatives whilst remaining willing to protect consumers; users, and the workforce – appears palatable on the surface.


[2] Woraprat Lerpaisal Royal Gazette Announces Thailand’s New Regulations for Online Ride-hailing services (National News & Public Relations 25 June 2021 see: ) last accessed 18th July 2021

[3] Jeremy Kidd Who’s Afraid of Uber? (Nevada Law Journal 20(2)) pp.581-560

[4] Thammarak Moenjak, Anyarat Kongprajaya & Chompoonoot Monchaitrakul Fin Tech, Financial Literacy, and Consumer Saving and Borrowing: The Case of Thailand (Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBInstitute) March 2020 see: )

[5] Henry H. Perrit Jr. Don’t Burn the Looms: Regulation of Uber and Other Gig Labor Markets (SMU Science and Technology Law Review 22(1) Spring/Summer 2019) pp.51-152

[6] Sarah O’Connor Don’t let gig economy companies rewrite the law (Financial Times Online, Opinion, 23 February 2021 see: ) last accessed 18th July 2021

[7] Ibid 5.

[8] 2 UK High Court of Justice: R. (on the application of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) v Central Arbitration Committee [2018] ewhc 3342 (Admin), 5 December 2018 (see: )

[9] Suchit Leesa-Nguansuk Ride-Hailing taxi services welcome new regulations (Bangkok Post Online 1 June 2021 see: ) last accessed 18th July 2021

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