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THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: December 25-31, 2010



A Happy New Year from Naked Farang. As we head out of 2010 and into 2011, it’s time to find out who is staying out and who is heading into jail in Thailand. Find out here…

OUT:

Despite his provocational rantings, Jatuporn Prompan has remained at large because of the absurd political immunity he has enjoyed as an MP. With parliament now in recess, that immunity has expired, yet still he remains free to spread his evil lies – well almost. A request by the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to withdraw his bail was rejected by the Criminal Court last week – on condition that he not take part in any political gatherings of 5 people or more, and that he not disseminate political information which may cause damage to legal cases involving UDD protests.

Based on Jatuporn’s track record, we can expect to see him flout these conditions with his usual odious contempt. Based on recent history, he can also expect to see him escape punishment. In fact, Jatuporn has acted above the law with such apparent impunity of late, that one could be forgiven for assuming that he must have been ‘flipped’ and is acting as a state informer in return for his continued freedom.

Also retaining their freedom last week were 4 former Election Commission members who received a 2-year jail sentence suspended for 2 years for illegally awarding themselves a retroactive pay rise.

IN:

Meanwhile, a number of red shirt protesters and leaders remain in custody following the riots between March and May of 2010. Seven of the leaders had been expected to apply for bail last week, but the applications were never made.

Joining them behind bars for their involvement in the illegal seizure of the National Broadcasting Service of Thailand (NBT) television station, Channel 11, in August 2008, 84 yellow shirt guards provided some colour balance.

Contradicting the regular claims of double standards made by the red shirts, all but one of the yellow shirt defendants in this case received jail terms ranging from 9 to 30 months. Let us hope this is a precedent of things to come for ALL protestors who cross the line and break the law in Thailand.

OUT (for now):

Finally, one of the main stories of last week in Thailand centred on an accident involving a car being driven by Orachorn Thephasadin Na Ayudhaya – or rather centred on the public’s reaction to her.

While Orachorn was lucky enough to sustain only minor injuries in the crash, nine of the passengers in the van with which she collided were not so fortunate and tragically lost their lives.

The next morning a picture of Orachorn using a mobile phone to send a text message as she stood next to the written off car was quickly spread across the Internet. Public outrage followed after it was assumed that she was idly chatting with friends. The anger was such that a Thai Facebook group of well over 150,000 members had grown less than a day after the accident.

While public anger at the tragedy is understandable, it is anger that seems strangely misdirected as it focuses entirely on the assumption that Orachorn was using her phone to chat with friends rather than help the victims or show any remorse.

Let us first consider a few more components of this tragedy before passing judgement. First of all, Orachorn is 16 years old and was therefore driving without a license and under age since the legal age to drive in Thailand is 18.

Investigators claim she lost control in the fast line, hit the right side wall and swerved back into a central lane where she hit the van. Orachorn herself admitted that she was speeding, driving recklessly and not wearing a seat belt. While there was public outrage about who she was contacting on her phone after the accident, I would suggest that the call register be checked to see if she was using it immediately before the accident occurred.

As for whom she was contacting when her picture was taken, her version of events is that it was her father. Supporting this claim in the aftermath of the incident, Orachorn’s step-brother strangely commented that, "My father is a soldier. He is a man of justice. He teaches discipline, integrity and justice." However, he obviously feels it is acceptable for his 16 year old daughter to be driving a family car on an expressway.

And then there is the fact that the van – as is so often the case – was overloaded. From the evidence available, and from my own experience of the roads in Thailand, it is likely that most vehicles were speeding and that cars were routinely ‘undertaking’ – overtaking on the inside.

So where should the anger be directed in this tragedy? At Orachorn? I would suggest not. We are all guilty to some extent and in trying to ascertain who Orachorn was contacting, we are clearly asking the wrong questions.

Why do Thai parents let their underage children drive when they can clearly never have had driving lessons?

Why are there so many bad drivers in Thailand who seem to have no idea about the basic rules of driving?

Why do the Thai police not patrol our roads more effectively? Why do they not enforce the laws that are designed to promote road safety in Thailand?

There is no doubt that the accident was a tragedy, but who is really to blame? Only when we can answer that question and do something about it will we prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Paul Snowdon – January 1, 2011

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