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Phuket police, officials ramp up anti-drink driving offensive

Police and the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO) yesterday (Nov 12) vowed to end the deadly antics of public transport drivers on the island after a week of horror car crashes left a Chinese tourist comatose and a traffic police officer mowed down dead by a minivan with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

drink driving in PhuketThe news came at a meeting headed by Phuket Vice Governor Chokdee Armornwat and attended by police chiefs and other senior officers as well as court officials and other relevant officers, including Jaturong Kaewkasi, the senior policy specialist at the PLTO.

“We explained to them that the PLTO is serious about taking action about reckless and drunk drivers,” Mr Jaturong told The Phuket News.

“We have a database that keeps records of every incident against all public transport drivers, including vans, taxis and limousines,” he explained.

“At the meeting, we discussed what limits of what kinds of offences are to be set and what penalties are to be imposed on drivers.”

Among the penalties being considered are suspensions of one to to six months, depending on the severity of the accidents or incidents the driver is involved in.

“If the accident or incident is grievous enough, we may even institute a lifetime ban on the driver working in Phuket’s public transport industry,” Mr Jaturong said.

“However, we can make rules for Phuket only,” he added. “We will discuss what options are available for drivers registered elsewhere in the country.”

No penalties were finalised at the meeting today.

“We will meet again to confirm and agree on the penalties to be levied against public transport drivers. After the penalties have to be agreed on, they will be presented to the Governor for approval,” Mr Jaturong said.

Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada confirmed to The Phuket News that the police and the PLTO have his full support to curtail drink drivers, now with special focus on van, taxi, limousine and bus drivers.

“I have spoken with the PLTO. They will meet with top officers from departments across the island and they have my full support in taking action to prevent any further horrible accidents caused by alcohol,” Gov Chamroen said.

Today’s meeting followed Sgt Suthat Songmueng, the 40-year-old Traffic Police chief at Tha Chatchai Police Station, being slain by an out-of-control minivan on Monday (Nov 9) while waiting to make a u-turn at the Pa Noen Pad Thai intersection in Baan Sakoo.

He was on his way to conduct security duty for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who visited the island to dedicate two new buildings at Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town. (See page 7.)

The horrific incident was captured on CCTV.

The minivan driver, Pichitphol Pak-kaew, from Phuket, was arrested at the scene after he was breathalysed and found to have a blood-alcohol reading of .079. He has since appeared in court and is The driver, Pichitphol Pak-kaew is currently being held on charges of drink driving causing loss of life and reckless driving causing death.

The first charge carries a penalty of a fine of between B60,000-B200,000 and between three to 10 years in prison. His driver’s licence will be revoked. The second charge carries a penalty of a fine of no more than B20,000 and/or no more than 10 years in prison.

Mr Jaturong today confirmed that the company that hired Pichitphol as a driver is facing a fine of B5,000 to B40,000.

“The company (which he declined to name) has been ordered to accept responsibility for Pichitphol,” he said. “The company has a permit issued by the Land Transport Office to provide public transport services. By law, such companies are responsible for their drivers,” he added.

Mr Jaturong noted that tour companies that hire public transport operators will not be accountable in such situations. “Instead, the transport company will be held accountable,” he explained.

“But if a tour company has its own drivers, that company must also have a permit to provide a public transport services – and will be held accountable just the same.”

Meanwhile, Phuket International Airport Director Monrudee Gettuphan told The Phuket News that her office will review the current terms of driver behaviour for all vehicles serving passengers at the airport.

“All the drivers serving the airport are already bound by the terms set between Airports of Thailand Co Ltd and the public transport companies that have concession contracts to provide taxi, van, bus and limousine services here,” she said.

“But these latest events have forced us to review those terms, and we will be speaking with the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) about this next week,” she added.

Phuket News

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