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Letter to the editor – out of control drivers and their sentences in Thailand

On 27th December 2010 a 17 year old under age female driver in her Honda Civic collided with the rear of a passenger van which then smashed out of control into the railing of an elevated section of the Bangkok’s Don Mueang Daeng Tollway. Nine people were thrown by the impact of the collision onto the road 20m below and were needlessly killed. The young Thai female driver known as “Praewa” or “Civic Girl” was then seen casually leaning against the embankment next to her wrecked car allegedly texting friends. She was subsequently charged with unlicensed and reckless driving, causing death and injury to others whilst using her mobile telephone, this charge was later dropped for lack of evidence. Apparently she came from a wealthy family with connections in high places and suggestions by the press at the time that given time the incident would simply blow over. The then Prime Mister, Abhisit Vejjajiva intervened following a public outcry and insisted justice would be done.
“Civic Girl” was indicted in June 2011 and found guilty of the first charge in August 2012 at the Central Juvenile and Family Court and sentenced to three years imprisonment suspended for three years, later reduced to two years as the court felt her evidence assisted the court, whatever that means!! In the meantime the relatives of the victims took the case to the appeal court and in April 2014 it upheld the two year jail term. The girl’s family appealed the decision on the bases there was no intent which the Supreme Court’s rejected and the appeal process is now closed but effectively the “Civic Girl” all but got away with it apart from a little community voluntary work!!
The victims’ families are seeking 120 million baht in damages which was suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Thongpoon Panthong the mother of the driver killed in the crash said she accepted the court’s ruling but has never been contacted by  “Civic Girl” and said “she has never uttered a word to us”.
In the early hours of a Monday morning in September 2012 , Vorayuth Yoovidhya, heir to Thailand’s Red Bull energy drink Empire, allegedly sped down a Bangkok street in his 30 million baht silver Ferrari on an allegedly drink and drugs fueled jolly, he crashed into the rear of a police officer motorcycle patrol with such force the impact threw officer back against the hood and windscreen killing him whilst his motorcycle became wedged into the front of the Ferrari. He failed to stop and the bike together with the police officer were dragged some 200m before the car broke free then sped off leaving a trail of engine oil. Vorayuth, who is known as one of Thailand’s most prominent young princelings and goes by the nickname Boss returned to his guarded home nearby and went into hiding. When police finally detained the slight, baby-faced Vorayuth, he was photographed wearing a Christian Dior polo shirt, with a baseball cap pulled low to shield his downcast eyes, with dollar signs along its brim. Vorayuth admitted hitting the officer and was released on bail and has been free ever since pending a trial which if found guilty he could face a ten year prison sentence? Vorayuth lawyers have paid the bereaved family of the police officer 3 million baht compensation in order to avoid a lawsuit. Since then Boss has failed to turn up to at least five court hearings on the first and less serious speeding charge. On the sixth occasion his lawyers presented a Doctor’s note to the court claiming poor Vorayuth had a nasty cold and was far too sick to travel back from Singapore to Bangkok and face the charge, therefore running the Statute of Limitation on the charge of speeding, out of time!!
Vorayuth is a grandson of Chaleo Yoovidhya, the self-made co-founder of the world’s most popular energy-drink company. The Yoovidhyas are worth 250 billion baht, making them Thailand’s fourth-richest family, Chaleo died in March of 2012, six months before the hit-and-run. That meant that Vorayuth’s indictment was postponed for the sixth time; police now say they will seek an arrest warrant. Still, some argue that the family’s economic and political clout will insure Vorayuth is never punished.  A year or so ago Vorayuth’s case made headlines again in Thailand, with critics arguing that he embodied an all too common attitude among ultra-rich Thais who consider themselves exempt from the nation’s laws.
More recently a female university student in the Chang Mia district lost control of her car and collided with a group of cyclists early one morning killing three and seriously injuring two others. It is alleged she was driving under the influence of alcohol. Only last week another cyclist was killed in Bangkok but we will never know if the Thai driver was intoxicated as he performed the usual trick under such circumstances, namely a runner.
It is said our self-appointed Prime Minister Ex General Prayut Chan-o-cha himself a keen cyclist has instructed officers of the Royal Thai police farce to clamp down heavily on endemic breaking of traffic laws and in particular those driving under the influence of drink or drugs. This new directive was for immediate action and supposed to take the form of road blocks and the random stopping of those suspected of breaking the law.
Well I suppose its early days but I haven’t seen anything other than the usual stopping of helmet less riders who pay a small fine and sent on their way. Almost every day we are told one person dies on the roads of Koh Samui alone and it doesn’t matter how carefully you drive. As a long standing resident of this island I have complained on a number of occasions to the desk Sargent to both of the two main police stations. “Why aren’t your officers out there doing the job they are being paid to do and protecting people”. The answer is always the same they are far too busy solving the island serious crime but glancing over his shoulder you can’t help to see his colleagues in a room at the rear of the station glued to a TV set.
I would urge all foreigners’ visitors and residents alike not to ride motorbikes, travel on essential journeys by car only safely bucked in. Avoid overtaking and turning right which are the two fundamental tasks that Thais seem incapable of doing correctly leading to many unnecessary accident and remember the faster you travel the more the damage there will be to body and limb. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a head on collision it’s the combined speed of both vehicles which is the controlling factor and inevitably will exceed the 30 to 40 kph speed your particular car achieved it’s safety standard rating.
Ginger Marks

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