Saigon cops open fire during bike taxi dispute

A Grab Bike driver carries a passenger in Ho Chi Minh City. - Tuoi Tre

Police in Ho Chi Minh City have had to open fire in the air to stop a fight between a group of xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers and their tech-based counterparts from getting more violent.

The incident took place on Thursday night, when the drivers, some armed with wooden sticks, ferociously fought each other in front of the Mien Tay (Western) Bus Station in Binh Tan District, police confirmed on Friday.

According to some eyewitnesses, one Grab Bike driver first had an altercation with some traditional xe om, at around 10:45 pm, before many other tech-based drivers rushed to defend their fellow.

In return, other xe om also came out from the bus station with sticks to assist their counterparts in fighting back.

A group of the city’s flying squad police were patrolling the area at the time of incident, and decided to open fire to calm down the escalating situation.

Following the incident, two Grab Bike drivers involved in the fight, Nguyen Hoang V. and Truong Thai P., had their contract with the app terminated to serve the investigation, Nguyen Thu An, head of the public relations with Grab Vietnam, confirmed on Friday.

Grab Vietnam, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based technology firm Grab, oversees the ride-sharing service in the country.

“We have asked all our Grab Bike drivers to treat customers with courtesy and must not involve in any kinds of argument with traditional xe om,” An said in a public statement.

Grab Vietnam has called on police to investigate and press proper charges on those at faults in the fight.

This is not the first time tech-based drivers had problems with their conventional rivals.

In 2016, as many as 65 cases of Grab Bike drivers assaulted by traditional motorbike taxi drivers were recorded in Ho Chi Minh City, according to Grab Vietnam.

Conventional motorbike taxi drivers have long been able to secure a stable living by providing their services to travelers at airports, railway and bus stations, and residential areas in the southern metropolis.

But their way of life is quickly changing as a new wave of motorbike cabbies moves onto the scene, with ride-hailing applications making securing a fare as easy as tapping a smartphone screen.

Thanks to a user-friendly interface, convenience, cheap fares, and attractive promotions, the apps have rapidly become local residents’ first choice for transportation and a driving force behind the extinction of traditional drivers. – Tuoi Tre News

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