So far officials recognise one death on Phuket’s roads since the campaign began at midnight on Monday night, with 28 more people injured in 28 accidents. These are the figures recognised by the Phuket Provincial office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM-Phuket).
However, the national Thai Road Safety Committee (ThaiRSC) disagrees – and the difference is important.
As reported several times in our daily reports for the current Seven Days campaign, for the purposes of reporting deaths and injuries from road accidents during the Seven Days campaigns – which are held twice a year, once during the Jan 1 New Year and again during the Thai New Year Songkran holidays in April – only people who have been admitted to hospital for medical treatment are recognised as injured.
ThaiRSC, however, receives reports from emergency workers as well as hospitals. As such, while DDPM-Phuket is recognising just 28 accidents on the island so far during the New Year 2021 campaign, ThaiRSC is reporting at least 235.
Worse, as highlighted by two deaths only last year, to “qualify” as a death during a Seven Days campaign, according to the DDPM the accident must occur during the seven-day period and the victim must die within the same seven-day period. Both conditions must be met. This explains why ThaiRSC still reports two deaths in Phuket during the new Year holidays last year, while Phuket officials maintain that the tally for last year remains at zero deaths.
All this leads to an absolute lack of faith in any DDPM figures, including historical data, presented as official for any Seven Days campaigns, they are just figures presented by the one government agency chosen to report the figures to the public. These are the figures that high-ranking officials are supposed to quote when speaking about any Seven Days campaigns. To be clear, this issue is not specific to Phuket, the policy holds nationwide.
But even this offers no defense for Phuket’s embarrassment this year over police inaction with drunk driving.
For the first three days of this New Year campaign, police officially reported that zero people had been fined for drunk driving, despite Phuket Vice Governor Vikrom Jakthee, and the DDPM-Phuket office itself, reporting that four accidents on just one day were the result of drunk drivers.
It was not until the next day that one person had finally been charged with drunk driving, and that was only after a person had been killed. The only discernible difference was that the four previous accidents were all non-fatal. Apparently in Phuket this year a driver has to kill someone before police will press a drunk driving charge.
Setting the bar low, DDPM-Phuket Chief Sophon Thongsai last week announced that the “hope” is for the official tally for Phuket by the end of this New Year campaign to be better than last year, simply because there are far fewer people on the island.
However, when the campaign began Phuket had already suffered 70 deaths on the roads during 2020, giving an average of 1.34 deaths per week. Just the one death already means that Phuket is only maintaining its average for 2020.
When it comes attempting to prevent accidents, other agencies are stepping up. Many expats might not be exposed to the road-safety campaigns conducted by the likes of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), which operates under the Ministry of Health.
These campaigns by tradition are hard-hitting. The videos broadcast on national Thai TV are graphic to the point it is difficult to believe that governments in Western countries would allow them to be aired in order to protect children from seeing harrowing real-life accidents on television. (See a video for this year’s campaign here.)
Yet when it comes to law enforcement as a tool to deter potentially deadly drivers from taking to the roads, local officials have a long way to go.