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With hundreds of people dying and being seriously injured on the roads of Koh Samui every year, is it not time that someone is called into accountability for this?
The widely recognized definition of ‘police’ is a body of people who not only are intrinsic in the prevention of crime, but one that protects the health, safety and well being of the community in which they have force. How then, one must ponder, is it that in a place where the population more than doubles during tourist seasons and one where the rate of road traffic accidents is widely recognized as one of the most dangerous on the planet, is not more being done to prevent these horrific accidents from happening?
Speak to any long term Samui resident and they will no doubt be able to regale you with stories of the aforementioned horrific accidents that they have either witnessed or heard of. As a long time resident myself, I too have seen my fair share, during the sometimes unavoidable drive by following such an event. These accidents haven’t just involved foreign visitors, but locals just the same. They don’t always (but admittedly sometimes) involve drunk people. Even if they do, should the people involved deserve any less sympathy, because they made an unfortunate choice, when the very people there to ensure this kind of behavior IS policed, fail so terribly to do their job? The answer, to my mind, is a resounding NO! In a place where so much money pours in on a yearly basis, would it not be more wise to have visible policing of road safety and billboards showing just what can happen if you make the choice to ride around on motorbikes without helmets and protective clothing? The answer to this is surely a resounding YES!!
In my experience here, I have come to believe that the general opinion is that the tourist industry must be protected at all costs; including the cost of losing life or limb. What is being failed to recognized is that most people would actually appreciate this information; it would make them feel more considered and cared for and give them information that they REALLY DO NEED. Samui is a paradise and as such has the wonderful effect of making people leave their cares and worries behind, feel free and enjoy themselves. This is fantastic, this is great and a fantastic accolade for a place to have in a world where stress, pressure and worries become more and more pressing everyday; but not at the cost of basic common sense! Inform people; let them know the dangers and in doing so let THEM make the informed choice. If they choose not to, then one cannot interfere with free will, but surely by making the potential dangers known, you will, in fact, increase the amount of people that want to visit here, just by way of giving them, their safety and life a value.
I write this in the wake of seeing the most horrendous accident I have witnessed during my time here. I arrived at the scene of an accident, only moments after it had happened, where an 18 year old girl had had her leg ripped off at mid thigh, following a low speed accident. She was wearing flip flops and hot pants and no helmet. If she and her family had been truly aware of the multitude of dangers facing her here, would they have let her on a bike in such attire, if at all? If her mother could have possibly conceived of the idea that she would be in a foreign hospital, facing her daughter’s death at worst, loss of limb at best, would she not just have rented a car to minimise this? Of course she would. People make ill informed decisions every day, it is part of human nature wherever you are, but surely it is the responsibility of the people who police a community to make ALL people aware of the real dangers of a place!
The sad, sad fact is, that on Samui this is not in place. What also struck me about this particular incident was the lack of compassion shown by the various different ambulance service providers that showed up to the accident. The main topic of discussion was whether the girl, who was injured and bleeding to death by the side of the road, had insurance! When doctors qualify, they take the hyppocratic oath, the main subtext of which is that saving a life is paramount to all else. Had I not been there at this horrific scene, and been able to translate between the friends of the girl and said ambulance services, the result could have been that she died there on the roadside instead of being rushed to the best equipped medical facility on the island, to have her leg reattached and the possibility of not only her life, but a chance at a normal one at that! Where did humanity get lost here?
Considering both the volume of tourism and road traffic accidents, would it not make more sense to have a publicly funded and central emergency service system here, to provide a human service without prejudice? Life has a value. Maybe not to everyone, but to the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of anyone involved in this kind of thing, then yes it does. As a mother myself I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I NEVER want to be in the position of the mother of the girl whose accident I saw had to witness..watching her rapid deterioration into hell as she realised her daughter might die or lose her leg; that is something I would never wish on even my worst enemy.
So the question comes back to who is responsible? Is it the tired Thai lady, on her way home from work, who, in a split second took her concentration from the road, just as two fun filled and care free young tourists passed her car, with devastating results? No, it is the responsibility of the local authorities to manage; police and inform people of the dangers. Make people aware. Insist on the correct head ware and clothing to be worn. Don’t treat the lack there of as an opportunity to make money. See the value in life. Recognise the value that resides in family. Take care of the people who bring you the most, because without them Samui should just go back to being a coconut farming island. Complacency in this regard has no place anywhere, let alone in one that does in fact attract thousands of unsuspecting people. People who have families, jobs, education and LIVES. Samui, you are an amazing place, but please, for the love of God, Buddha, Allaah, or whoever you worship, PLEASE sort this out. To all of you who live in and visit this paradise, please be safe.
Emma Jane Nacey