Tourism News

Tourism News Phuketwan Tourism News
facebook recommendations


Sign up now for our News Alert emails and the latest breaking news plus new features.

Click to subscribe

Existing subscribers can unsubscribe here


Emerin Chan, Simon Ong, Marisa and Chas Oldjohn this week

Anatomy of a Crash: Phuket's Not Safe Yet

Sunday, July 14, 2013
Phuket, Brave Enough to Change

PHUKET: Chas Oldjohn recalls the moment he and his wife Marisa turned the corner onto the bypass road coming from the airport and heard a cry.

He looked out the window of the taxi and saw a woman in the road yelling for help. A motorcycle was down. People were standing at a distance.

Nobody was answering the woman's plea. ''I could hear her screaming for help,'' Chas said.

Chas and Marisa were on their honeymoon and could have probably been forgiven for heading on to their resort in Patong.

But they heard the call, saw the woman looking straight at them, and ordered the taxi to stop immediately.

It was the beginning of a drama that brought together the Australian honeymooners and distressed holidaymakers Simon Ong and Emerin Chan, who come from Malaysia but live and work in Singapore.

The questions raised by these two couples in their analysis of a motorcycle crash deserve answers from Phuket officials.

Answers should come quickly so Phuket can show it remains seriously concerned about the safety of tourists and residents on Phuket's roads.

Simon, 39, a merchant banker, was being evacuated to Singapore this weekend to have operations to put both his broken arms and a shoulder back together.

His face, one eye blood-red, shows how lucky he was to be wearing a helmet.

Chas, 29, a firefighter from Melbourne, and Marisa, a doctor who works in a Melbourne hospital emergency unit, felt compelled to stop.

A few minutes earlier, Simon and Emerin, who works for Microsoft, had taken the right-hand corner and were heading towards dinner in Phuket City.

Without any warning, they encountered a section of the bypass road that was deeply rutted from being remade.

As Simon attempted to move across the rutted zone under repair to a safer surface, the bike hit something, he lost control and they crashed.

In a surreal moment, Emerin recollects coming off the bike then reaching out to try to grab Simon and stop him from sliding on: ''I tried to grab his ankle but I couldn't reach him.''

In a room at Bangkok Hospital Phuket in Phuket City, Simon makes light of the mess his face is in. He attempts a few jokes but admits he is ''numb and a long way from feeling the way i usually do.''

He says he and Emerin are regular visitors to Phuket or Krabi.

''We try to make one trip a year, hire a bike and go find some nice beaches and food,'' he says.

''It was the second day of our trip and unfortunately we had this accident.''

Simon, an experienced rider, had already traversed that stretch under repair once and knew it was likely to be tricky, but wishes there was both warning signage and an alternative route.

Emerin ''You don't see the international signs, the triangle, declaring that you are entering a dangerous area.''

Marisa ''In Australian there would be warnings, and cones to control the traffic.''

Simon ''After dark it must be even worse.''

Chas ''Luckily it was dusk.''

Marisa and Chas quickly moved into action with Marisa checking Simon thoroughly and professionally while Chas puzzled why nobody had stopped to help: ''We saw a few people standing by the road.''

Emerin ''In Singapore, people rush to help. Here, they just seemed to be taking videos.''

When a charity foundation paramedic arrived, Chas asked him for the proper kit to assist an injured person and was surprised to get a less than positive response.

Chas ''Our taxi driver wasn't prepared to stop until we got upset and the guy who arrived in the pickup with the canopy did not have the proper equipment or the right training.''

Marisa ''We had a look at what was going on, stabilised Simon, then waited for an ambulance.''

Although the ambulance was much better equipped, Chas thought it was strange that the team on board were keen to talk to him rather than Marisa, the doctor at the head of the patient.

Emerin found more problems when she went for a police report of the crash at Phuket City Police Station, and wisely took her own translator.

The message she got, she said, was that they were ''foreigners'' and had been riding dangerously.

Emerin ''Bloody hell, if I was a Thai he would be helping me, not giving me a difficult time. We were both wearing helmets and riding carefully.''

The two couples agreed that the lack of warnings about the condition of the road was a major oversight.

Motorists and riders need to be told about all roadwork because of the danger it presents. This is not the first crash on the remade stretch of the bypass road.

They also agreed that Thais do not seem inclined to help readily in this kind of situation - perhaps that's not true of all Thais. But certainly, people in Singapore and Australia are generally inclined to help more speedily than people on Phuket, the couples agreed.

More training and better equipment are required for the paramedics first on the scene. Chas and Marisa are offering to help with some guidance if it's wanted before they fly home.

They also note that fullface helmets remain difficult to find, even though they're the best precaution a motorcycle rider can take, apart from hiring a car instead.

Both couples were keen to stay in touch and wanted to tell their stories to help make Phuket safer for others. The rest is up to the authorities on Phuket.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A thoughtful, well written & interesting article which accurately sums up the road problems encountered in Phuket.

There are no black spot or danger warning signs at notorious accident spots; nor at areas where there is either road damage or road repairs being undertaken.

Despite the large numbers of foreign tourists using the roads, the signage is haphazard & unclear, if existing at all.

Just as the rip tide warning signs along the main beaches have been improved, so now is there a real need for authorities to improve road signs.

Posted by Logic on July 14, 2013 21:58

Editor Comment:

And perhaps even give us updates on the road toll statistics.


I personally think its not just ''Phuket'' its the whole of Thailand, driving standards are bad in General..

Posted by robert on July 14, 2013 23:02

Editor Comment:

This article is not about driving standards but about needless crashes caused by lack of care. In general, Thailand has a high percentage of good drivers but the bad drivers don't face the same levels of enforcement as elsewhere.


TO THE EDITORS REPLY u are kidding your self if u think thailand has any safe drivers, i have been here 2 years and not seen 1 person drive in a safe manner. thais cannot drive as they have never been taught in the first place. they learn from riding scooters then drive a car in the same manner. THE RECORD STANDS FOR ITS SELF 26,000 DEAD EACH YEAR. only 2 other countrys have worse record in the world.

Posted by GT on July 15, 2013 08:15

Editor Comment:

If you've been here two years and you haven't seen one person drive in a safe manner, perhaps it's time you opened your eyes. And don't think that what you are saying is somehow more impressive in capital letters. There are plenty of good drivers here who understand what safety is about, behave courteously, and follow the laws. There are also others who do not. That's pretty simple to see, GT, unless you have your eyes closed.


Saw an accident just north of Khok Kloi, was unsure if anyone was hurt, called 1669 (they only speak Thai) explained the best I could what happened and asked for assistance. Their first question: "Were any Thai people hurt?" 191 was the same . . . Very bad behavior for emergency services, especially in a tourist area. Next time I guess the answer will be "yes" regardless . . .

Posted by Cindy on July 15, 2013 09:42


maybe the difference is your level of safe driving, as to a westerners stand of safe driving is different levels of what is safe. my eyes are open every day i drive here and always amazed at what i see on the roads. the worst are the so called payd to drive mini bus drivers taxi drivers vip drivers. i have sat in the front seat of a vip bus doing 100 k and had there been no window i could have knocked on the rear window of the bus in front. many times have had to tell drivers to slow down or back off.the whole point here in thailand is the level of training is zero so how can they be safe drivers. i have to thai people seating here with me as i write this with car licences. i asked both of them what double centre lines mean , reply by both dont no. i was not trying to put thai people down just explain that how can some 1 drive safe if not no the rules. where are your driving schools that teach is there lessons given in the schools. driving is a major problem far more so than the trouble down south only about 5,000 dead in ten years in the same time 126,000 dead on the roads, plus about 1million put in hospital.

Posted by GT on July 15, 2013 09:44

Editor Comment:

Indeed. But there's no point in exaggeration. The figures are appalling, and good drivers die or are maimed along with the bad. Checkpoints are not enough.


Plenty of good drivers here who understand and follow the law. When did you wake up? 19 years in this country, and in the beginning I thought it was fun, but after a while it became scary. Nowadays, it is seriously stressful to see the " drivers " on the road. There is no such thing as common sense in usage of traffic lights, stopsigns, traffic circles, lanes, ( taking them in both directions ), etc. I am in contact, through my work, with mostly Australians, and they tell me that a fraction of the behavior what happens here, would cause serious road rage in your country. If they can see it, while on holiday, why don't you see it? Thai people believe, that when they have a Mercedes , they are king of the road, and nobody else matters. In this country, most pedestrians give way to cars, because they know that 99% of them, will not stop to let them cross the roads. And don't get me started with the 12 year old boys on bikes, because that's where it all start for many. ED, I know that there must be good and bad drivers here in Thailand. The only difference here, in comparison with most other countries is : even the good drivers behave stupid.

Posted by Charles on July 15, 2013 09:48

Editor Comment:

Charles, you've proved you wear blinkers all the time, driving or stopped. You keep telling us your problems, Phuket's problems and Thailand's problems. Thanks for nothing. Your negative approach remains part of the problem. You are on the wrong team. Unless you actually have an idea in your head or a suggestion for change for the better, you won't be posted again.


"But certainly, people in Singapore and Australia are generally inclined to help more speedily than people on Phuket, the couples agreed. "

And that is based on their vast experience with accidents both here and abroad? Sorry, but I see the same problem highlighted in foreign media day after day, nothing new and not unique to Thailand, in fact I have the feeling the problem is far less here.

And yes, level of care here is far less than back home, which is why it is a developing country. So good to try and improve the standards here.

Posted by stevenl on July 15, 2013 10:44


Does the truth hurts to you? Do you want me to give you a suggestion for change for the better? Stop what you are doing, stop calling yourself a reporter. Retire, and enjoy the few more years that you have left. This is a suggestion for the better for many of your readers.

Posted by Charles on July 15, 2013 11:01

Editor Comment:

It's not the truth, Charles, it's your pathetic take on half-truths. To think that you've been here such a long time, and learned . . . nothing. That's very sad, for you. Goodbye.


Thailand is a third world country with third world infrastructure. Drive at your own peril.
But more concerning is the lack of a helping from thais to foreigners. Perahps they just see us as walking ATMs?

Posted by Damien Takac on July 15, 2013 11:02

Editor Comment:

Thailand is a developing country. The phrase ''third world'' became history with the downfall of Communism, the second world. Perhaps you just see yourself as a walking atm. It's a condition known as ''paranoia.'' There are similar incidents everywhere. People are sometimes scared to help.


The reason many foreigners do not stop is that they are often blamed for traffic accidents even if they were not involved. Ask any foreign resident here of over five years and they will almost certainly agree as they have experience or been told a story. Sad but reality in Phuket. I think twice about getting involved but still do, last time a Thai man had come off his bike in one of the busiest roads and at night he was very drunk.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 15, 2013 11:19


There are a lot of good and defensive drivers on Phuket, some of those even in high end vehicles but in general the level of driving skills is very low.

Traffic laws are rarely, if ever enforced so there's no incentive to follow them. Counting on common sense gets you nowhere in Thailand.

The story in the article highlights the fact that if you get into trouble in Thailand as a foreigner, don't count on any authorities to help you. Many times they actually make it worse.

This is an appalling, discriminatory and downright attitude which becomes even more obvious once you learn to read and speak Thai.

Many people say these kind of accidents or crimes can happen anywhere in the world and that is correct but what sets Phuket apart in the most negative way is the reluctance of the authorities to help foreigners in times of need.

I'm not saying Phuket is unique in this way but it's certainly something most western tourists would never expect, until it hits them with a truck.

Sometimes literally.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 15, 2013 12:15

Editor Comment:

Common sense will get you to where you want to go in Thailand, as it will everywhere. It is not possible to extend the experience of a single incident to cover every incident. The truth is, you just don't know whether discrimination is common or not. Please stop pretending you do - it's not logical and it's not helpful. Metaphors are meaningless.


Emerin ''Bloody hell, if I was a Thai he would be helping me, not giving me a difficult time. We were both wearing helmets and riding carefully.''

Sorry Ed, but I think the above says it all. Its not too much to ask that thais treat all people as human beings and not just foreigners who are not worthy

Posted by Damien on July 15, 2013 12:50

Editor Comment:

The quote doesn't ''say it all.'' It's one case and every case is different, unless compiled into statistics, which tell us something about a collective experience. For you to ''ask that thais treat all people as human beings'' seems to indicate you have some abnormal power that enables you to determine how all thais think, Damien. You don't. You are using this single case to promote your own warped and unproven theory. Total P-a-r-a-n-o-i-a.


sorry but not exagration as the figure i put up was wrong 10 years at 26,000 is 260,000 dead. why furangs speak up about this driving here is. per 1 hundred thousand people in countrys australia 5.5 people die per 1 hundred tho, british 3.5 per hundred tho thailands figure is 55 per hundred tho, and if u want answers to change this is driver training its that simple

Posted by GT on July 15, 2013 13:02

Editor Comment:

The article is about the need for warnings where roadwork is undertaken and for appropriate reactions in the event of crashes. There is not a single mention of a Thai driver in the article. It's a single-vehicle crash involving a non-Thai couple. Indeed, the quality of Thai driving is irrelevant to the article. Everything you've said bears no relationship to this crash and is therefore a gross exaggeration.


"The reason many foreigners do not stop is that they are often blamed for traffic accidents even if they were not involved. Ask any foreign resident here of over five years and they will almost certainly agree as they have experience or been told a story."

Why do people keep sprouting the same nonsense over and over again? Ah yes, because 'they have been told a story'.

Posted by stevenl on July 15, 2013 13:29

Editor Comment:

The longer you are an expat on Phuket, the taller the stories become.


- Ed

Relying on the common sense of our average Phuket driver has obviously not taken me where I would want "to go" - better traffic safety. On the contrary.

When traffic law enforcement is all but completely absent, as it is on Phuket, only the common sense of drivers is left to keep everyone safe. I'm not impressed with the results and I'd wager quite a few others are not either.

Discrimination among authorities towards foreigners on Phuket is well documented in countless different cases along the years. Most noticeably in the Jet-Ski, Tuk-Tuk, assault and immigration related incidents. No point in starting to list them all here.

This report was but just one of them, hence I said it merely _highlights_ it.

I know from both personal experience, the experiences of my friends and news reports that such discrimination is indeed far more common than is generally known or should ever be allowed to happen.

On PW alone one can easily find countless reports where foreign victims have claimed to be discriminated against by local authorities. It doesn't mean and I never claimed everyone treats foreigners like that but it sure is alarmingly common and quite unimaginable for the average tourist coming from the developed world where people in general rely on and trust the authorities to help them without bias.

It's far from judging the lot by just one example, as you imply in your response.

Your experiences and impressions may be different from mine but I can only speak for my self. I know what I know.

You are most welcome to disagree but that doesn't invalidate what I think, feel and know.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 15, 2013 13:51

Editor Comment:

Discrimination against ''foreigners'' is common all over the world and the main reason why we prefer not to use the word. In Thailand, the word is sometimes misused in a way that implies ''foreigners'' are of lesser importance or perhaps even evil. This is an error in thinking sometimes but not at all times found in authorities but less likely to be experienced among ordinary citizens.
In more than five years, i can't recall many, if any, cases where expats have been falsely accused of being responsible for crashes, although I can certainly accept it happened at one time. It appears to be a myth that is in the process of disappearing. There are plenty of Thais who pay bribes or who have been the victims of unscrupulous dealers or agents so there's no discrimination. Rip-offs and shake-downs are all about the money. This is way wide of the central content of the article.
Common sense equated to defensive driving - making no assumptions about the behavior of others and being extremely cautious at all times.


"Discrimination among authorities towards foreigners on Phuket is well documented in countless different cases along the years. Most noticeably in the Jet-Ski, Tuk-Tuk, assault and immigration related incidents."

No shit Sherlock, discrimination against foreigners in immigration incidents?

Posted by stevenl on July 15, 2013 14:43

Editor Comment:

Again, wide of the topic. The fact is, the policeman put the blame for the single-vehicle crash where it is usually appropriate - with the rider/driver. However, in this case, the lack of safety considerations in repairing the road was the cause. The ''foreigner'' thing is a secondary issue. But no policeman should treat expats and tourists differently.


Common sense will get you to where you want to go in Thailand, as it will everywhere...i agree but i changed my mind since i have kids who are half thai. as my kids will grow up in thailand (or should) i follow the political, social thailand as well and open my eyes and ears. i work all over thailand and travel a lot. living 8 years in thailand and married to a thai woman i think my opinion counts. there is a serious traffic and infrastructar problem in phuket and i know what i am talking about because i use my car everyday in phuket. to sit in a taxi or drive sometime a scooter is not the same then driving to phuket town, back to patong, kathu, kamala and so on. as well for my work i travel a lot. i can see the insane horrific things happen on thai roads and everybody who denies that is looking to a pink thai glasses. there are no rules, police don`t enforce the law and it`s getting more crazy every year. there is a reason why thais hide the road death statistic. what you think? because it is so shocking high. you have no idea about the real figures and will never know the real ones. as i working in hospitals i can see with my ones eyes how many accident victims are there and i would suggest you go make interviews with emergency doctors from hospitals to get a overview. it`s out of control and i see no change at all. police is still lazy and not interested to enforce laws and there are every month dozens cars new on the road. i agree that we have to accept a certain way a country is ruled as foreigner. but thailand with millions of tourists and praising himself as the mekka of tourism should take care that the roads are not killing roads. it`s one of the biggest nightmares here to have a accident on the road...and a country where peoples feel not safe is risking that those people will leave that place. i feel unsafe on thailand roads and thats a fact.

Posted by mike on July 15, 2013 15:55


@stevani, On what confirmable information, do you base your comment on re:""But certainly, people in Singapore and Australia are generally inclined to help more speedily than people on Phuket, the couples agreed. "

And that is based on their vast experience with accidents both here and abroad." I am sure that not only I, but many others would like to know.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on July 15, 2013 15:59


- Ed

Agreed, foreigner is a often misused and misunderstood description. However in this case the only other option would have been to use "non-Thai" instead. Equally my experience is the same as yours - the common Thais are in general very friendly and helpful towards foreigners, especially when you move away from the tourist areas and visit the countryside.

I also agree the myth about foreigners always being found at fault in traffic accidents in Thailand is unfounded. I've heard far more cases where the situation was assessed in a fair way and only a handful of the opposite.

Calling your insurance company is highly recommended. Their agent will come to the accident site, do all the paperwork and they know the rules and regulations. Their interest is same as yours, making sure no blame is pinned on your insurance unfairly.

- stevenl

If you gave it a bit more thought than just a spinal response, you might remember the incident involving the French couple a few months back. It was clearly the fault of Immigration and/or airline handling agents, who were all Thais, yet the French couple was handled in the worst possible way.

You may also remember the British man who's passport was wrongly deemed a fake and who was consequently jailed.

Just because you can find apples and tractors on a farm doesn't mean they are the same.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 15, 2013 16:04

Editor Comment:

I suspect stevenl was being facetious.

Wednesday July 17, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


Facebook Twitter