MALAYSIA: Earlier this month, the story of five Malaysian tourists narrowly escaping an alleged kidnapping attempt involving an e-hailing driver in Bangkok grabbed local media headlines.
In an unexpected turn of events, the Tourism of Thailand Malaysia clarified the matter, stating that The Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourist Police Thailand have initiated an investigation with the e-hailing driver.
The preliminary findings suggest that this case likely resulted from misunderstanding and miscommunication.
On 5 September, one of the travellers shared their harrowing experience on Facebook. During their trip to Bangkok, they opted for a ride-hailing service InDrive for their journey to the airport
Mr Tong claimed that they immediately sensed something was wrong upon entering the car, due to the heavily tinted windows and the driver’s suspicious behaviour, including reporting their movements in detail to someone on the phone.
Andrew Tong, who spoke Thai, overheard the driver’s conversation and translated it for his friends.
For instance, the driver was allegedly providing a detailed description of their group composition and reporting their every move to an undisclosed individual on the other end of the line.
Mr Tong asserted that when passengers consulted navigation apps, Waze indicated a 30-minute route to the airport, while the driver’s Google Maps suggested a longer 50-minute path.
When the group requested a restroom stop, the driver adamantly refused, citing potential police interference.
Sensing danger and noting the driver’s reluctance, they swiftly exited the car on the main road, and the driver made no effort to stop them or demand payment, further intensifying their suspicions.
n his post, Mr Tong clarified that sharing their story was not intended to incite panic or dissuade individuals from visiting Thailand. Instead, it aimed to remind people to choose local taxi drivers, use map applications, and closely observe their drivers’ behavior.
However, Mr Tong’s post did not specify whether they had reported the incident to Thai authorities, leaving room for suggestions from netizens regarding the appropriate course of action.
Thai Tourism Authority clears e-hailing driver in the tourists’ incident, highlights miscommunication
On 9 September, the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Malaysia took to Facebook to clarify the incident.
According to their statement, both the Thai Tourism Authority and Tourist Police Thailand have summoned the e-hailing driver for investigation and interrogation, and their primary finding concluded that this case is likely of misunderstanding & miscommunication.
“Police will continue to investigate, and will be calling in the other caller’s person on the phone and the operator of ride-hailing application.”
The Thai Tourism Authority further disclosed that their investigation revealed the driver has no criminal record and holds a stable job with a company specializing in medical equipment services.
The driver takes up part-time e-hailing work to supplement his income to support his family.
Driver’s perspective on the incident
According to the driver’s explanation, the route he used was based on the e-hailing system’s GPS application, which is mandatory for all drivers to use.
The statement clarified that meanwhile the Malaysian tourists were using a different map application, which displayed a different route.
The driver mentioned that after picking up the passengers, he was forced into a heavy traffic lane that required a right turn, deviating from the route shown on the visitors’ GPS.
The driver added that the tourists suddenly reported feeling unwell and needing to use the restroom, requesting a stop in a tight area, which was not feasible.
“The driver informed guests he will go to nearest petrol pump toilet, but the tourist insisted to go to the toilet in the mall.”
The statement said the driver was allegedly being reprimanded for continuing a lengthy phone conversation (for 55 minutes) since the passenger was picked up.
“The driver explained & clarified that on that particular day, it was unfortunate that his cousin had problems with the car accident, car claim and court issue, and he could not hang up the conversation.”
The communication continued from the time of pick-up until the tourists quickly disembarked.
The driver also confirmed that he did not discuss taking the tourists to any airport, as claimed by the tourists who overheard his phone conversation, according to the statement from the Thai Tourism Authority.
In their concluding statement, the Thai Tourism Authority reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of tourists at all times.
The e-hailing platform conducted an investigation following the incident, and confirmed no foul play
On the other hand, as reported by MustShare News, a spokesperson from the e-hailing platform inDrive has also responded to the matter.
They stated that they conducted an internal investigation upon being alerted to the incident.
Although the company couldn’t reach the passengers, their comprehensive investigation into the driver’s actions concluded that the incident resulted from miscommunication, with no foul play involved.