BANGKOK – Thailand’s Deputy national police chief and police spokesman Pol General Weerachai Songmetta said on Tuesday that officials will join forces to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on public-transport and chartered-bus drivers, aimed at preventing accidents.
General Weerachai said national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda had instructed police nationwide to accommodate travellers during the unpcoming Songkran holidays and implement measures for road safety and crime suppression.
Weerachai said police would exercise “careful discretion” as to whether passengers would be able to ride to and from their home towns on the cargo beds of pick-up trucks. Any cargo-bed passengers seen drinking alcohol or sitting dangerously, such as by dangling their feet over the edge of the tray, would be arrested.
Chaiyaphum police have already implemented random urine tests for bus drivers. Suspect Sitthipong Laterng, 40, who was taking 60 teachers and students from a school in Kaeng Khro district to visit Nakhon Ratchasima, was pulled up at a checkpoint in Khon Sawan district and tested positive for methamphetamine use.
Police ordered the bus company to replace Sitthipong, who was arrested for drug abuse, with a sober driver.
The issue was tragically highlighted last week when a double-decker coach crashed in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Wang Nam Khieo district, killing 18 travellers from Kalasin and wounding 30 others.
Weerachai said the owner of the chartered bus in this incident would face a charge of violating the Land Traffic Act 1979 by allowing another person to drive a public-transport vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic substance. This offence is punishable with up to two years in jail or a fine of up to Bt40,000, or both.
Coach driver Krissana Juthacheun, 44, who fled the scene but was captured the following day, was charged with reckless driving causing death and injuries, failing to stop to provide aid to injured passengers and having narcotic substances in his body while driving.
At the Kalasin Office of Insurance Commission on Tuesday, provincial governor Kraisorn Kongchalard watched on as Southeast Insurance PCL handed compensation worth Bt650,000 to the families of each of the 18 dead crash victims.
Thai Life Insurance PCL also presented additional compensation totalling Bt11.6 million to the families of five deceased crash victims, and Chubb Samaggi Insurance PCL handed compensation totalling Bt400,000 for four deceased crash victims.
Kalasin police chief Pol Maj-General Montri Jaranpong said Wang Nam Khieo police investigators would interview the survivors and their relatives to gather evidence for their criminal-code actions against Krissana and the coach company.
By Suriya Patathayo,Chompit Pinmuang,
Sutthipong Settharangsi – The Nation