Victims of drunk driving and anti-drunk driving activists are protesting a proposal for entertainment venues in tourist areas to stay open until 4 a.m. They fear that longer drinking hours will result in more road deaths.
On Friday, 60 demonstrators of the Quality of Life Network gathered outside the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, to condemn the proposal.
The demonstration comes ahead of Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn’s request for cabinet approval at the next weekly meeting on Tuesday.
Mr. Phiphat has spearheaded a proposal to extend the hours of operation of bars and other nightclubs in tourist areas to 4 a.m.
The Governor of Bangkok Mr. Chadchart Sittipunt has also expressed his support for the proposal to revive the capital’s economy and promote tourism.
Bangkok, Patong, Phangnga, and Krabi province are all possible extended-hours locations.
The activists urged Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul to stop the plan, saying they are concerned that more lives will be lost if drinkers try to drive after venues close at 4 a.m.
“Do we have enough injured, disabled, or dead people from drunk driving when nightclubs close at 2 a.m.?” Jessada Yaemsabai, the leader of Bangkok’s Network of People Affected by Drinking, inquired rhetorically.
“Adding two more hours may not be too difficult. But how many people could die, be injured, or become disabled as a result of drunk driving in a year?” Mr. Jessada who is bound to a wheelchair as result of an accident caused by a drunk driver said.
According to stats from the Thailand’s Health Promotion Foundation and other non-governmental organizations, people driving under the influence of alcohol cause more than 20% of road accidents, with the damage costing society approximately 90 billion baht per year.
A rescue volunteer who attended the rally on Friday urged the government to reject the proposal by the tourism and sports minister, who reports to Mr. Anutin of Bhumjaithai.
“Please don’t make it any longer,” he said. “Driving under the influence accounts for more than half of all road accidents in Bangkok at night.”
The Bhumjaithai Party is also responsible for removing cannabis from a restricted drug list before any laws or regulations governing its use are in place. Many doctors and others advocating for new restrictions are concerned about the increased recreational use.
An adviser to the Prime Minister, accepted the demonstrators letter of protest on behalf of the government.
Drunk driving epidemic in Thailand
Impared driving has reached epidemic proportions in Thailand. While there are laws to address this issue, a lack of enforcement means that offenders go free or face only minor penalties.
During the Thai new year’s Songkran festival in 2022, 7,141 people were charged with drunk driving.
Songkran is usually celebrated over a 5 day period in April.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is responsible for 26% road fatalities in Thailand.
According to the WHO, alcohol is responsible for 26% of road deaths in Thailand.
The courts sentenced the 7141 people charged to probation. 13 of them were ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device and were not allowed to leave their homes from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am for a week.
Those at risk of alcoholism will be referred to a rehabilitation facility by the Public Health Ministry. A repeat offender would be sentenced to three days in rehab and behavioural adjustment and required to report to probation officials regularly and perform community service.
In Thailand, however, many DUI cases result in suspended sentences. There are no consequences unless the perpetrators are caught doing the same thing again.
Regardless of the gravity of the offence, Thai police officers frequently accept guilty pleas for “injury caused by negligence or recklessness” rather than impaired driving due to alcohol. This significantly reduces the penalties for DUI offenders.
Impared driving is punishable by a fine of up to Bt200,000 and/or imprisonment for up to ten years in Thailand.
Their driving licenses may be suspended or revoked. However, leniency is frequently granted by police and courts, reducing the effectiveness of drunk driving laws.