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Protesters defiant as older vans forced off roads

A BAN ON COMMUTER vans more than 10 years old came into effect on Monday, with 1,000 such vehicles being taken out of service and with the Administrative Court rejecting a request by van operators and drivers for an emergency trial over the new law.

 

 

The judge on Monday dismissed their request for an emergency trial to force the Department of Land Transport to let them stay on the roads, said Association of Thai Constitution Protection Organisation secretary-general Srisuwan Janya, who led the group to hear the court’s verdict.

The court saw no need to urgently hold a trial. The lawsuit, filed on September 28 by 731 plaintiffs will now proceed at a normal pace, said Srisuwan, adding that the court could later order temporary measures to help alleviate the situation.

 

While waiting for the outcome of the lawsuit, the operators will proceed on other fronts to protect what they see as their rights, possibly by petitioning Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith over the matter, he said.

They would also sue the Department of Land Transport (DLT) director-general for a refund for the many drivers who had already paid to renew their public transport van registration and annual tax, along with their insurance and GPS fees worth tens of thousands of baht per driver, he added.

“The van ban is viewed as unfair and discriminatory because many other public transport vehicles that are over a decade old are still allowed on the roads,” Srisuwan said.

 

Rungreung Thongkham, the public relations official for the Upcountry Public Van Transportation Association, said the group would now seek remedial measures, including the cancellation of the authority’s requirement that operators shift from vans to minibuses.

She said a minibus costs Bt3 million and can take only 20 passengers while a van is Bt1.3 million and can carry 13. She also warned that, in the next two years, another 4,000 vans will be deemed “expired”, 2,000 vans in each of 2019 and 2020.

 

Meanwhile, the Victory Monument area in Bangkok, a major hub for people catching a van to go around the city or upcountry, was almost as busy as usual on the first day of the ban, as younger vehicles for the most part seamlessly filled the gaps left behind.

Janya Sumsap, who runs the Tor 85 van service, said only eight of her 38 vehicles were more than 10 years old so the ban itself had little effect on her business.

 

But many commuters mistakenly believed that all vans would be banned, she said, causing a noticeable drop in the number of passengers on Monday and meaning she only put 25 of her remaining 30 vans on the road.

Apisamai Wimuktayan said she used the vans two or three times a week to get to and from her home in the Lat Krabang area – a 45-minute ride compared to the three hours it takes by bus. Apisamai agreed with the ban on older vans, but said the authorities should add more new vans to maintain the number available.

During the transition period, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has air-conditioned buses plying six routes and charging the same fares as those charged by vans.

 

There are currently 10 extra buses running between Min Buri and Chatuchak, Min Buri and Pakkred, Min Buri and Future Park Rangsit and Victory Monument and Thammasat University Rangsit, plus 20 between Victory Monument and Future Park Rangsit, and five between Victory Monument and Muang Thong Thani.

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