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Authorities are preparing a “Safe Songkran” programme in an attempt to limit the number of casualties too often associated with the fun annual festival.
Songkran, which marks the traditional Thai New Year, is celebrated in mid-April every year, but the period has been dubbed the “Seven Dangerous Days” due to the large number of deaths and casualties on the roads. Nearly 400 people were killed and almost 4,000 injured during Songkran last year.
“Checkpoints will go up and officials will strictly enforce traffic laws. For example, no drink-driving is allowed, and drunk drivers’ vehicles will be seized,” Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon said on Monday.
At the same time, he emphasised that officials must not engage in bribery.
Millions of people hit the roads in Thailand during the Songkran festival either for holidays or to visit their home provinces. Because of the sheer number of travellers, the number of road accidents is higher than during normal times.
Prawit said he planned to ban trucks and buses from using main roads during Songkran to ease traffic jams.
He was speaking after he presided over a meeting of the Integrated Security Solution Centre, which included representatives of the armed forces, the National Police Office, the Interior Ministry and the Transport Ministry.
Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantravanich said highway police would be in charge of main roads while the Interior Ministry would take care of secondary roads.
The Seven Dangerous Days associated with Songkran 2018 will be between April 11 and April 17.
“During the period, we will have provincial road safety centres up and running to reduce accident risks,” Kongcheep said. He said speeding, drink-driving, driving without a licence, and motorcycle riding without a crash helmet would be strictly banned.
“We will also pay attention to the environment, such as road surfaces, lighting and traffic signs,” Kongcheep said.
He said complaints about road conditions and problematic conditions could be directed to the hotline, 1586. “Regarding highways risks, call 1193,” he said.
Kongcheep said authorities would also boost public safety at Songkran venues.
Nikorn Chamnong, who heads the People’s Safety Foundation, urged the government to use local mechanisms to stop motorcyclists and their passengers flouting traffic laws.
“Last year, the use of such mechanisms in Krabi reduced motorcycle accidents by 34 per cent,” Nikorn said.