“Passengers in the back of pickup trucks are allowed,” PLTO Chief Banyat Kantha told The Phuket News.
“This is because Section 21 of the Vehicle Act B.E. 2522 (1979) was amended in 2003 so that a private vehicle such as a private pick up truck – with vehicle weight of not more than 1,600 kilograms – may be used as a private car and is permitted to carry more than seven passengers,” he explained.
“Families in Thailand, for a long time, have used pick-up trucks as private family vehicles. They are often required to transport all the members of a large family. So it is allowed,” he added.
Regarding the new law requiring all passengers to wear seatbelts, which was launched yesterday (April 5. See story here), Chief Banyat noted, “Passengers in public transportation vehicles such as tuk-tuks and songthaew (trucks or pickups converted to carry passengers) are not required to wear seatbelts as these vehicles are not installed with seatbelts for the back passengers.
“Drivers and front seat passengers in these vehicles, however, do need to wear seatbelts,” Chief Banyat explained.
However, whether people will be able to continue to ride in the back of pickups in the future remains unclear.
Yesterday (April 5), the government backtracked on a new rule banning people from travelling in the rear space, or tray, of pickup trucks following fierce criticism from the public.
The ban was announced only on Tuesday (April 4).
The regulation will now be enforced only after the Songkran festival, they now say, reports the Bangkok Post.
Deputy National Police Chief Pol Gen Detnarong Sutthichanbancha said the government decided to offer a reprieve, though a date had yet to be fixed for commencing the enforcement of the new pickup passenger ban.
During the Songkran holidays, officers will give only verbal warnings to passengers who sit in the back of pickup trucks, he said.
People can continue to sit in pickup trays and the government has not set a maximum number of passengers, Gen Detnarong added.
However, he insisted police will still enforce the law requiring the mandatory use of seat belts, particularly for passengers in commuter vans.
A Chumphon police officer is being investigated after he posted a Facebook message criticising the controversial measure, the Bangkok Post also reported.
Lt Col Akarat Hoongnam, an inspector at Salui Police Station in Tha Sae District of Chumpon, said the law should not cause problems for people and that it would be important to enforce it at all social levels.
“If high-society people or the rich are allowed to make the laws, they will not care about the plight of the poor,” he said. (See story here.)
Instead of barring people from riding in pickup trays, there should be a greater focus on enforcing speed limits, he said.
However, Chumphon Police Chief Sonthichai Awathanakulthep has instructed Col Akarat to explain his actions, according to Chumphon Police deputy commander Wimol Phitakburapha.
Col Wimol said if he is found to have committed an offence, a committee will be formed to take disciplinary action against him.
He said police are duty-bound to enforce laws in line with government policy, and they should not oppose them.
Meanwhile, a Facebook post by a police officer in the Deep South complained that the people who came up with such traffic laws are those who spend their time in air-conditioned rooms and do not care about the poor.
“How would 10 people be able to go to work together in the front space of a vehicle? How could we [the police] fight back against bandits who shoot at us?” he said, referring to the fact that police also sit in the back of pickups.
Following the announcement of the ban, more than 100 people were arrested within two hours on Wednesday (April 4) in Khon Kaen’s Muang district after police set up a checkpoint there.
The traffic violators were fined B200 each. They included those who failed to fasten their seatbelts and people travelling in back of pickup trucks.
Khon Kaen Police Chief Noppadol Petsut said the fines were low and efforts had been made to educate drivers. Some received only verbal warnings.
Bandit Donnang, a 65-year-old driver of a pickup, was arrested and fined B200 for carrying his relatives in his vehicle’s tray. They were heading to a merit-making ceremony.
He said even though he agreed with the road safety push, he wanted authorities to ease the measure.
“People in rural areas do not have enough money to pay for public transport so they just travel together in a pickup as a group to save on transportation costs,” Mr Bandit said.
For the full Bangkok Post story, click here.