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Thai Rath commented strongly on the story on everyone’s lips this week: the government’s ban on travelling in the back of pick-ups.
Though PM Prayut has said that the implementation of the ban will be delayed until after the Songkran holidays Thai Rath said that the ban was effectively a slap in the face for the nation’s poor who are obliged through one reason or another to travel in this way.
In reality the law banning travelling in the cargo bay of pick-up has existed for a long time and is known to the people, they said.
But everyone has accepted that it is not enforced. To suddenly announce that it would be enforced is unfair, especially to the poor.
The influential Thai media group said that 35 million people are expected to be on the move next week in buses, planes, trains, minivans and cars. There are thought to be more than 7,000 bus and van trips per day alone with upwards of 180,000 passengers per day using that mode of transport.
But they said that many poor people cannot afford to go in buses and vans.
They choose to club together with friends and travel in the back of pick-ups by splitting money for gas and thus saving cash on expensive bus travel.
While accepting that this has its own dangers there are also dangers travelling in vans and buses. They said that poor driving of overtired and badly trained bus and van drivers was also very risky.
This was known to all Thais as was the habit of fleecing the public for transport costs during times like Songkran.
So this is why the poor are prepared to suffer the blazing sun, the wind and the rain by sitting in the back of a pick-up. Everyone always knew it was illegal but now it is to be enforced they demanded of the government:
“What are the poor to do now?”
“Poor families whose only asset is their pick-up used to transport goods and people – vehicles bought in good faith – what are they going to do now?”
People have got used to using pick-ups as multi-utility vehicles and to expect them to suddenly change was unfair and a slap in the face from the authorities to the poor.
Thai Rath looked at accident statistics and quoted experts who identified areas where compromises to the enforcement of the law could be made.
One of the main problems, they said, was that people in the back of a pick-up changed the stability characteristics especially if there were more than seven.
In this case there was two times more likelihood of an accident.
If people were standing in the back of a pick-up this further increased to four times more likely that an accident would happen.
The more people that were carried the more chance of an accident.
Thai Rath proposed that several measures could be made in the short term to “meet the law half way”.
These included making it law to put a roof on the back of pick-ups, limiting the number of occupants in the back to just seven and focusing on being strict in enforcing the law on fast roads such as highways, motorways and toll ways.