Thai New Year road deaths hit 480, defying junta get-tough vow
Publish | 05 Jan 2017, 15:13
Nearly 480 people died on Thailand's roads over the New Year holiday, official figures showed Thursday, a 25 percent rise over the so-called "seven dangerous days" despite the junta's tough talk on drink driving.
The kingdom has some of the world's most lethal roads, with the carnage spiking over the New Year as millions of city workers return to their country homes.
Thailand's junta government has launched repeated crackdowns on drink driving since its 2014 power grab, including approving harsher penalties for offenders and forcing drivers to visit mortuaries holding the bodies of accident victims.
But the toll over the last week still soared to 478 up from the 380 recorded during the same period in 2016, according to the Interior Ministry's disaster prevention department.
"The main reason... was drunk driving and speeding," said deputy Interior Minister Suthee Markboon, adding that a majority of the 3,919 crashes involved motorcyclists.
The army said officials arrested nearly 67,000 people for drink driving and seized more than 4,000 cars between December 29 and January 4.
The deadliest accident saw 25 people killed on Monday when a packed minivan and pickup truck collided in eastern Chonburi province.
Experts say a lack of helmet-wearing among motorcyclists is a major factor for the high death rate.
The kingdom's traffic cops are also notorious for bribe-taking and letting wealthy, well-connected drivers off the hook for offences.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the seven days, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha conceded his government had lost this year's battle.
"We did the best we could, we had more checkpoints, more authorities, we seized tens of thousands of vehicles, but still we had more casualties," he said.
Nevertheless he vowed to double-down on safety checks before Songkran, Thailand's traditional New Year holiday in April the other week the Thai press tags as the "seven dangerous days".