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Drunk Driver Who Killed Policeman and His Wife to Be Charged with Premeditated Murder

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BANGKOK – Thai Police have pressed a premeditated murder charge against a suspected drink-driver, Somchai Wayrotepipat 57, who slammed into a car, killing a couple and severely wounding their daughter, in the harshest legal action ever taken against careless driving during Songkran.

Under Section 288 of the Criminal Code, a person convicted of the offense could be subject to a death or life sentence, or between 15 and 20 years behind bars.

It was the first case revealed by authorities after they vowed to stringently enforce traffic laws and penalize people arrested in connection with road accidents during Songkran.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda stressed on Wednesday that violators will “receive stiff penalties”, one day before the government started its annual “Seven Dangerous Days” campaign against road accidents the traditional Thai New Year holiday.

Drink-driving topped the causes of the 468 accidents on the first day of the campaign on April 11.

The accident in question occurred in the early hours of yesterday morning on Thawi Watthana-Kanchanaphisek Road in western Bangkok.

Businessman Somchai Werotphiphat drove his Mercedes Benz into an oncoming lane of traffic, slamming into a family of three in a Suzuki Swift, police said yesterday.

Pol Lt Col Chatuphon Ngamsuwittchakun, deputy chief of Crime Suppression Division’s subdivision 2, was killed at the scene while his wife died later in hospital.

Their 16-year-old daughter, Phiyapha, is being treated at a hospital for serious injuries.

The 57-year-old driver later admitted to police he had consumed around five bottles of beer after playing golf at a nearby course.

He said he “felt drunk”, so he decided to drive home, deputy national police chief Wirachai Songmetta said after questioning the suspect.

Mr Somchai claimed he could not remember what happened, Pol Gen Wirachai said, citing the man’s account.

His behaviour showed he “knew” he was unable to drive carefully, Pol Gen Wirachai said, adding this could be viewed as an act of premeditated murder.

“Mr Somchai should have been aware that he risked causing a serious accident,” said Pol Gen Wirachai.

Officers at Sala Daeng Police Station recorded Mr Somchai’s blood-alcohol level at 260 milligrammes, which far exceeds the legal limit of 50.

They are seeking to remand him in custody pending further investigation.

The investigators will also charge Mr Somchai with drink-driving and careless driving causing death.

The two deaths yesterday added to the death toll that stood at 46 after the first day of the government campaign, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said yesterday.

There were also a total of 482 people injured in 468 accidents.

The highest number of fatalities was reported in the northeastern province of Udon Thani where four people were killed in road accidents in Muang, Kumphawapi and Phen districts.

“Udon Thani has not been ranked first [in death cases] for a long time,” provincial governor Watthana Phutthichat said after a meeting to assess the situation.

“I want to see this only once,” he said, telling officials to take serious action to curb accidents in the province over the six remaining days.

The Seven Dangerous Days campaign will end on April 17 after the five-day vacation during which thousands of people drive across the country to celebrate the holiday in their home provinces.

On its first day, there were a total of 1,609 traffic-related cases forwarded to the courts, Suriyan Hongwilai, spokesman for the Courts of Justice, said yesterday.

Over 1,000 offences involved drink-driving, followed by driving under the influence of drugs and driving without a licence, he said.