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Drivers of taxis, commuter vans hit by this week's Bangkok protests

Taxi and commuter-van drivers and owners are complaining about the difficulty they are facing making a living due to the anti-government campaign that has locked down much of Bangkok.

A cooperative of commuter-van operators estimates that drivers of about 5,000 vans, who are mostly low-income earners, are suffering from a huge loss of revenue, which is normally earned from fares collected from around 100,000 daily passengers.

Chairman Chaiyaphat Kerdkiat yesterday called on banks to reduce monthly instalment rates on loans incurred through purchases of operators' and drivers' vehicles. In many cases, the drivers are paid by their number of daily runs, or daily fees.

This group of people has suffered most, especially family breadwinners, as they have daily expenses to cover, he said.

Meanwhile, one taxi driver deplores how his all-red vehicle was once smashed and damaged just because of its colour.

Tribhop Montien, 33, said it was unfair for him to have sustained such an indiscriminate attack.

He does not mind about the "Bangkok shutdown" campaign, as he believes in the protesters' constitutional right to express themselves.

Moreover, driving his own taxi, he does not have to pay a daily fee like most drivers that use rented taxis.

Tribhop also said that since the attack on his vehicle, he had been avoiding rally sites or jammed areas and was seeking passengers in suburban areas instead.

Drop in daily income cited

Another taxi driver Somphorn Pramayo, 44, said his daily income - after deducting rent of around Bt500 and petrol expense of about Bt400 - had fallen by some 40 per cent during this week's protests.

The number of passengers has dropped even more during the night, as far fewer Bangkok residents are going out or, if they do, are not staying out late.

"Merchants who buy cheaper items at wholesale markets even avoid travelling at night, for fear of their life and security," he said

Commuter-van driver Chaiya Sriwanta, 39, who operates between Victory Monument and Ban Laem district in Phetchaburi, said he had been using short cuts in the capital to avoid rally sites, and in many cases dropped passengers off prematurely or away from their destinations.

Long-term blockades by the protesters would affect commuters and operators alike, he said.

"If we can't make our runs, how do we get income to cover daily expenses and monthly instalment repayments? It's a chain reaction that affects everyone involved," he added.

Van driver Phongphan Nakrob, 42, who operates between Victory Monument and Kanchanaburi, said the shutdown campaign, which entered its fifth day yesterday, had resulted in only nine vans in his queue providing a service, and 16 others to stop running.

"An hour-long wait at the queue before each run gets only a few passengers, and the queue has now moved to a nearby spot, resulting in a large number of prospective passengers missing us out," he said.

"Van drivers are now running out of money. We are burdened with a Bt40 daily permit, a monthly rental fee and petrol costs - and have only a little money left over.

"If this continues, we will soon lose our vans through repossession. If the protests continue, we'll surely die out," he added.


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