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Time for vigilante action to stop carnage on Phuket's roads

One Young Phuket Death Too Many

Friday, November 30, 2012
News Analysis

PHUKET: The tragic death of a nine-year-old girl on Phuket yesterday touched the whole island because everyone knows how dangerous Phuket's roads are.

Her death was all the more poignant because her parents had tried to make her trip to school on Phuket as safe as possible.

No matter how carefully people drive on Phuket, there is always the person at the wheel who really shouldn't be there, the fool who follows a different set of rules, or no rules at all.

There was a time when we could tell you whether deaths on Phuket's roads were increasing or decreasing. We are no longer able to do that.

The local Public Health office, which once provided monthly figures to Phuketwan, now keeps them secret.

It's the same with the drowning figures.

What this means is that Phuket has been plunged back into the Dark Ages.

Vital information about public safety is no longer available. People in high positions now again decide, as they once did when Thailand was full of feifdoms, what Phuket people can or cannot be told.

The cover-up has made a comeback.

This reflects poorly on Phuket administrators. Residents and tourists have a right to know how many people are dying on Phuket's roads and on Phuket's beaches.

In other countries, successful road safety campaigns and winning campaigns designed to reduce the number of drownings have been mounted, highlighting the numbers.

Only by knowing the scale of the problem is awareness created and maintained to reduce the amount of unnecessary deaths.

The sad thing is that back in April, when we published the current road toll and drowning figures for the last time, Phuket was gradually reducing both tolls.

Now, we can't tell you whether either of these battles is being won, or lost.

We know that eight tourists drowned on Phuket's west coast beaches at the rate of about one a week from mid-May, an appallingly high number.

We know that rumors say there have also been more unreported drownings in recent weeks.

As journalists, we can tell you that there is nothing to be gained from Phuket officials covering up the deaths of tourists and residents on the roads and in the water.

When the truth does come out - as inevitably it will - people will be angry.

The sound and sensible process in every democracy is to be transparent, and to fix the problem. Hiding it is an even bigger problem.

That said, there are some practical points that spring from the latest tragedy, the needless death of a child whose life had barely begun.

If Phuket wants to save its young people from dying or being maimed on the roads, it needs a safe, reasonably priced public transport system as soon as possible.

Even the drivers of the monopolistic taxis and tuk-tuk must have realised that by now.

The other major issue is for everyone to play their role in improving approaches to safety. Make us all road toll vigilantes.

Police certainly need to become more active, and to maintain constantly the ''100 percent helmet'' concept instead of imagining that it will happen by magic.

Putting a complaints number on the side of every taxi on Phuket is a great idea, and that great idea should now be spread more widely.

A large telephone number should be stencilled on every commercial vehicle on Phuket, so that other motorists can complain directly to the driver's boss if they spy erratic behavior.

It's time to make a real start. Forget the coverups. Be frank and honest, and let the people have their say.

It's time to save young lives, for the sake of Phuket's future.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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When anyone else says anything negative about Phuket you put them down often in an unprofessional manner. Now you are annoyed about the figures you think it is alright. With you censoring people on here it is not really worth reading as you might as well go the the Tourism of Thailand website, same as on Phuketwan but in reality the story is very different as your rare anti Thai article shows.

Posted by Happy Farang on November 30, 2012 18:21

Editor Comment:

Nothing on this site is anti-Thai, Happy Farang. It never has been and it never will be. The only place that kind of bigotry can easily be found is inside your head. We are pro-Thai, pro-saving lives and pro-Phuket. Always.

We are also pro-intelligent debate. And your opinion? Well, you can't even separate the journalism from the comments. Sad to say, you are among our least well informed readers.

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The only thing that ever really works is to strictly enforce all the traffic laws. Laws that already exist here in Thailand. They should simply be applied starting tomorrow, and for sure the number of deaths on the roads would start tumbling down. And I mean ALL traffic laws, everything from illegaly modified vehicles (sidecars, super high trucks etc) to helmet and belt use, to punishing the smallest traffic violation. Other "campaigns" are worthy, but not effective. There must be consequences for breaking the law, otherwise it won't bite.

Posted by christian on November 30, 2012 18:34

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PW Ed,
Seems while Thailand is brothel to the world, it doesn't have to do jack to appease anyone, ever. Hasn't the sex industry enabled this corruption? Doesn't the FBA act reduce foreigners to marriage fodder?

Posted by cbf on November 30, 2012 19:15

Editor Comment:

There's a diminishing number of people who come to Thailand for the sex, cbf. To imagine it was ever the only reason is, if I may so so, a failure to look around you. Even years ago, the evidence pointed towards a lower number of single men visiting Thailand. To call Thailand ''the brothel of the world'' was not true when it was first used, and isn't true today. Anyone who thinks it is has a seriously blinkered outlook. Prostitution is legal or tolerated almost everywhere. I suggest you read this article:
http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/learningthethaisextrade/

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Good article. Unfortunately we are living in a country where many of the people are anarchists and don't care about the law, whatsoever. We see it every day, that, drivers on bikes, or in cars are breaking the law in front of a policeman, without consequences. I see every day a policeman taking his daughter to school with no helmet on.

Posted by Charles on November 30, 2012 21:22

Editor Comment:

You must be living in a different country to me, Charles. I see many people take their children to school every day, with great care. I see people who mostly show great consideration to other road users. And I see a minority who ride and drive as though there were no rules.

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We, I means farang who read, have to realize that this is an other world. Different culture, different levels of education, different lifestyle family.. Msot of Thais are two generations of civilization back compared to the rest of civilized world. Even now most of parents here are unable to educate their children as should be done in the 20th century. I can list dozens of events personally experienced to prove this. No hope: this island is doomed to die...

Posted by dave on November 30, 2012 21:25

Editor Comment:

What offends me, dave, is your use of the phrase ''civilised'' world. Do you mean the ''civilised''world that sparked two world wars and a genocide in which millions and millions died? Your conceit is contemptible and ignorant. Please don't bother me or other readers with your embarrassing arrogance and lack of schooling.

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"We are pro-Thai"

Thank you for the omission of bias.

Here I was, thinking a news outlet would be impartial in regard to nationality. Silly me.

Good article though, appreciate the issue being highlighted.

Far too many drivers on Phuket are incredibly selfish and ignorant of both their own and the safety of others.

Not intending to debate the reasons why it is so, it is a fact that Phuket police do not enforce traffic laws. As a result those who break them, do so knowing they can and do get away with it.

Pleas and campaigns are not working.
Cover-up is the typical Thai "Head in the Sand" reaction which will go down very poorly in the international clientel Phuket so proudly proclaims to serve.

Putting the lives of others at risk must be made financially and socially unbearable through stiff and swift penalties.

Phuket streets are starting to look like an overcrowded race track and many drive as if their whole family pride depended on them being first.

Posted by Andrew on November 30, 2012 21:55

Editor Comment:

We are extremely proud of our ''omission of bias'', Andrew. Thank you for giving us and our approach your support. We're also reasonably happy with our lack of exaggeration and our research into issues, two points that don't seem to be as readily grasped by readers who are only interested in expressing fatuous opinions. Yes, that means you, Andrew.
It's as though you expect this country to be just like the one you left behind.

Perhaps nobody has told you that Westerners drive like maniacs and die on Phuket, too.

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No smoke without fire. What was it the police general denied a few months ago "media blackout"

Posted by Harald on November 30, 2012 21:58

Editor Comment:

Is this a quiz, Harald? What was it the police general denied a few months ago? How does the police general connect to the Public Health department?

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Excellent editorial. Don't agree with it all but thank heavens someone's writing some compelling stuff about life on the island instead of the puff pieces in the 'newspapers'. Agree or disagree - it's intelligent opinion on our little island.

Posted by At Last on November 30, 2012 22:42

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I agree whole heartedly with your comments, but where from here? The saddest aspect is that those most often and acutely affected and grieving (the local population) still suffer from the Thai behaviour of not wishing to offend those whom have higher social status. Basically that means anybody in local Government and/or influential family (typically the same thing).

It will take a major shift in local leadership to move the 'TIT' (and I'm talking about Thais themselves), acting responsibly and accountably. They (local Government) needs to stand up to the municipal cartels that exist, and say 'stop, you are hurting my people'.

Of course, that's not going to happen, there will be much wringing of hands, bowing of heads, and 'I've been a bad boy but I'll make merit tomorrow', and smile with life going on (bring me another 50 unqualified taxi drivers, I'm running short of my monthly cut, and don't worry if the cars aren't fully safe, just put an extra coat of wax on the paintwork which helps you go faster and earn more money........).

Posted by Phil on November 30, 2012 22:45

Editor Comment:

The trouble is, Phil, you are just telling us the status quo. We know the status quo. There is no point in telling us the status quo, with your own quirks. The status quo we know. Please provide additional information or ideas.

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It's well seen your back Mr Ed with the usual attack on every comment placed before you in the world according to you and your deputies.The fact is the driving standards on this island by the Thai nationals is a disgrace as can be seen by the many many articles of death and carnage caused by Thai drivers posted in your paper over your 5 years on phuket.The lack lustre approach to traffic policing and enforcing of the laws of the road have allowed us to get to this point where yet another life has been snuffed out and that is all the worse because it was a child.

Posted by Scunner on November 30, 2012 23:30

Editor Comment:

The vast majority of locals drive reasonably carefully and within the law. We've seen the deaths of a proportion of Westerners among the road toll, Scunner, too, which indicates that people from everywhere will drive badly if given the opportunity. Enforcement and education are required. Sweeping criticisms that are not true are a waste of energy. A few good ideas from you could help.

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in chalong/rawai this past week there was a drunk russian man who hit 2 different thai people in the morning commute within a span of 4 days. same man, 2 separate victims. nothing happened to the guy. he's still out there driving around. all kinds of people on phuket drive like maniacs. the authorities and the justice system need to do a better job of holding them accountable.

Posted by fakename on December 1, 2012 00:37

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@Dave do you mean the civilized world that has two world wars to it's credit, the death of six million jews in gas chambers, the invasion of Iraq over WMD which did not exist, the carpet bombing of Coventry, the fire bombing of Dresden.
If that's the civilized world then I would rather be uncivilised

Posted by Arthur on December 1, 2012 06:35

Editor Comment:

Perhaps Dave means the civilised world where supermarkets carry 40 different kinds of processed oatmeal, where the heads of companies are obsessed by greed, and where every action of individuals is carefully monitored. Or maybe Dave means the civilised world where children are sexualised by advertising from the age of five, where pornography spills into daily life, and where serial killers are a chronic outcome.

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Thanks for highlighting (again) this endemic problem of Phuket and Thailand in general. I recently read that Thailand has the toughest traffic laws of all ASEAN nations. However, all the greatest laws are just words on paper if not enforced. Bangkok will keep it's greedy little pockets closed so it's time Phuket generates it's own income. How about parking tickets? A few well placed cameras to catch the red light runners and follow up on fines. Local events that raise money for the police organization. Enforce the laws on the books, please.

Posted by Jon on December 1, 2012 07:21

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The editor has rightly raised a very important subject, show respect to the familes whom have lost love ones in recent weeks and support this matter with out all the stupid comments. There are very few dangerous drivers at high speed, it is a small group only, hopefully some of those in the hotel business that comment here who say they are managers can get together and instruct tour companies they will no longer stand for this behaviour. Perhaps all tour van/bus drivers can be given a photo of each of the 3 ladies killed in recent weeks to help change their mind sets... well done editor and hope something positive will come of this lead... condolences to the family who's little girl is never coming home from school again...

Posted by Show support on December 1, 2012 07:31

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Unfortunately tourists and residents knowing the published numbers is of little consequence beyond the embarrassment factor of negative press.
Officialdom,weassume, already does have the figures and knows the problems but appears to remain complacent offering platitudes with little or no specific measurable,accountable,time related plans.
Agree resources are an issue but perhaps management and accountability of those that seem to be so self serving would go a long way to help the situation?

Posted by David on December 1, 2012 08:47

Editor Comment:

Perhaps i should point out gently, David, that making negative assumptions is also useless and the bystander's equivalent of platitudes. I don't know why you bother. Why not contact your embassy and insist that they pursue the figures? Why not . . . Do Something?

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well written, indeed!!! This hell on the roads must finish! I drive my daughter from Rawai to Kajonkiet every day, with motorbike, mornings and evenings....with every high season I see things getting worse and worse. We see accident almost on a daily basis, if we don't see, we just see the ambulance going to pick up someone....The Rolly Tasker street light, was not working for 4 days in a row! This is Phuket....where the surface must shine but inside.....it is rotten. The sea is blue but...polluted, the sky is clear but garbage is burning at every corner....and the list goes on....This is the time for a serious update of the road structure and security. It is just a huge shame, and please, stop calling it Paradise .

ps. and ...I am not anti-Thai, I AM just PRO-LIFE AND ANTI-DYING ON A ROAD...with this written, I still love Thailand but a bit less Phuket.

Posted by Olly on December 1, 2012 09:42

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ED: 555..yup I am a totally ineffective bystander ...bit naive to think that any tourist or other visa holder will in any way influence the apparent Thai apathy by whining to an embassy methinks? Suggest they already know the issues and problems but powerless....Sadly the way of the world mate.
"Doing something", as you put it, consists of my wife employing Thai families and taking care of our own ..consider that is plenty..maybe not much in the "big picture" but....
Still can't get my wife to wear a frickin helmet although she nags me to use seat belts...go figure.

Posted by David on December 1, 2012 11:04

Editor Comment:

Apathy is what you are complaining about, yet you appear to have a large dose of it, David. We are not some kind of confessional for lost souls. If you don't have anything to offer, why bother? Even if it makes you feel better, you are just fooling yourself.

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Ok here is my list of what to do :

1.Educate Phuket drivers about road rules and make drivers licenses more difficult to obtain and easy to lose .
2.Clearly post and enforce speed limits including an 80 kph limit for airport vans and taxis.
3.Introduce large fines for moving violations. If they are not paid confiscate vehicles and sell them at auction.
4.Introduce a special level of testing for professional drivers and more severe penalties for them including disqualification.
5.Introduce random drug and alcohol testing with fines and jail sentences for repeat offenders ,fine tourists who offend at a higher rate commensurate with their income .
6.Stop children riding motorcycles until they are 17 and hold a provisional licence.

Posted by wagabc on December 1, 2012 11:04

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Yes its a quiz, but I understand now that I should have used a screen reader application!
July 2012.
According to police officers in both Chalong and Thalang districts,Royal Thai Police Headquarters had issued a directive that they were not allowed to release information to the media. Phukets top cop today denied that such is the case.
Btw, and as I assume you know. Police and the public health department have when necessary meetings together with other Government departments.

Posted by Harald on December 1, 2012 13:15

Editor Comment:

That's not from Phuketwan, Harald, and as you note it was even rejected by police as totally wrong. If you wish to believe conspiracy theories, go right ahead. Just don't force them on us, please, especially when the original ''information'' has been denied.

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The biggest killer here is SPEED. If drivers were moving at a slower pace, they'd have more time to react. Vehicles driven by both Thai and farang alike at break neck speed, overtaking on blind bends. The daily sound of sirens filling the air.

As for suggestions, I did. I suggested to the police that they set up speed limit signage and use speed traps. Their reply? We don't have the money. Yeah.

Posted by findlay on December 1, 2012 13:32

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Ed:
Always thought a lot of the reader comments re your venal comments were a bit over the top.....now it is apparent your style is to get a rise by yanking your readership's chain....
Have fun Graham.....a quantum leap in journalistic editorial repartee from an on line rag.
Keep it coming..very entertaining......55555

Posted by David on December 1, 2012 14:05

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I wonder if some high ranking officials young daughter was tragically killed by a speeding driver, whom I would lay bets on had been drinking, wether there would be any substantial changes to the death toll. As for Drunks driving around hitting people and getting away with it only to drive again... one day the masses will do some thing. If it had happened to my young son or daughter I would make it my business to make sure it never ever happened again......

Posted by JoeBLow on December 2, 2012 22:26

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It's sad to read this article & note how local authorities are responding to tragic events.
I would have thought knowledge, awareness & education are paramount strategies for reducing accidents.

Posted by Mike Phillips - Adelaide on December 7, 2012 09:53


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