By Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand has ordered U.S. online taxi booking company Uber to cease operations, on the same day taxi apps were banned in the Indian capital New Delhi where an Uber driver is under arrest for suspected rape.
The Southeast Asian nation's Department of Land Transport said drivers picking up fare-paying passengers via Uber's app were neither registered nor insured to drive commercial vehicles, and that Uber's credit-card payment system did not comply with regulations.
"They have to stop operations immediately," Director-General Thiraphong Rodprasert told reporters after meeting officials from Uber and rival cab-hailing apps GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi to discuss regulating Internet taxi services.
The meeting was arranged before a passenger in New Delhi reported she had been raped by a driver contracted to Uber. The incident brought taxi apps to the attention of Indian authorities, who on Tuesday banned all unregistered Internet taxi firms from operating in the capital.
Taxi booking apps have irked drivers at traditional taxi firms across the globe. Consumers are increasingly using the smartphone software to find people willing to drive them, rather than booking a cab by phone.
In Thailand, Uber's app acts as a matchmaker between owners of private vehicles and passengers, and has its own fare structure. GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi work with traditional taxi firms, using regular meters to calculate fares.
Effective immediately, drivers who use personal vehicles for commercial use could be fined 2,000 baht ($61), and the transport department is working to implement higher penalties, Thiraphong said.
The Uber representative who attended the meeting declined to comment.
In neighbouring Vietnam, Uber was to discuss means of regulating its service with transport ministry officials on Monday, but cancelled the talks citing "important circumstances".
Transport Minister Dinh La Thang called for regulation after public criticism that followed a deputy transport minister calling Uber's operations illegal. Uber told local media it works with transport companies so its drivers were licenced and insured. Uber also provides passenger insurance, media reported.
In Indonesia - Southeast Asia's most populous country - private drivers using apps such as Uber to pick up fare-paying passengers are acting illegally, though the law has never been enforced, said Izzul Waro, an adviser to Jakarta's Transportation Agency.
"Many taxi companies don't have a formal permit to operate from the government. They operate by themselves. This is usual in Indonesia," Waro said. Uber does not have a permit, he said.
Uber declined to provide immediate comment on its operations in Vietnam and Indonesia, citing the "crisis" in India.
(Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI and Randy Fabi and Dennys Kapa in JAKARTA; Editing by Christopher Cushing)