Witnesses suggest that a black Toyota car lost control and hurled itself into the passenger van on the opposite side of the road. Police are treating the site of the accident as a crime scene.

Confirmed reports from the Watthana Nakhon district of Sa Kaeo province suggest that at least 5 people have been killed in another fatal passenger van smash in the Thai province bordering Cambodia. Police in the area were alerted to the accident at ten minutes before 11 on Thursday morning and responded along with rescue services.

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Thai police at Watthana Nakhon in Sa Kaeo responded to another horrific passenger van accident in the province just weeks after eleven people lost their lives in Wang Sombun on August 15th last. This time, a car hurled into a passenger van from the other side of the road instantly killing 4 people including the van driver. Another person died in hospital but there are unconfirmed reports of six fatalities. The latest accident will again spotlight the pragmatic decision by Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to retain passenger vans as a component of Thailand’s public transport system for suburban and interprovincial travel.

It is the second major passenger van accident in the province this month and will put pressure on Thailand’s Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob who cancelled plans for the disuse of vans for such services which was to have taken effect on August 13th last, two days before 11 people died in another passenger van crash in the Wang Sambun area of the eastern province.

Fatal accident in Watthana Nakhon district

Police in Sa Kaeo are reportedly treating the fatal accident that occurred in the Watthana Nakhon district of the province on Thursday morning as a crime scene after a black Toyota car lost control and hit a passenger van head-on before landing upside down on the road. The accident site is reported to be opposite the Wat Nong Jik in Watthana Nakhon.

Confirmed reports say 5 people killed in passenger van crash but death toll may be higher

Reports of the crash in which five people have so far died were received by Thai police at Wattah Nakhon at 10.50 am on Thursday. The investigation officer into the incident is Police Lieutenant Colonel Bunnak Trachoo.

It has been confirmed that two men and two men died immediately within the passenger van when the car hurled into it from an angle after first losing control on the other side of the motorway. A fifth passenger passed away later in hospital. 

Some people who know the area have suggested that an island in the middle road may have played a part in the tragedy. There are also unconfirmed reports from the accident scene that the death toll may have risen to six.

Many Cambodian nationals aboard the van

Many of the travellers in the passenger van are reported to have been Cambodian nationals while the black car had local Sa Kaeo license plates. Among the dead is the driver of the van named as Theerapong Suphorthong who died instantly as the car plunged into the van on the driver’s side.

Passenger van looks like the right-hand side collapsed on impact with an out of control car

Pictures from the scene show the passenger van extensively damaged and contorted from the impact of the private vehicle. It is reported that the driver of the black car named by police as Chaiwat Saithong, emerged from the upturned wrek of his automobile. He appeared to be injured and bleeding from his head. He is among eight people rushed to Watthana Nakhon hospital, seven of whom are still being treated there. The injured include two children. 

Witnesses to the accident told police that the car was travelling towards Aranyaprathet when it suddenly lost control and whirled across the road into the passenger van travelling on the opposite lane of the highway.

Second horrific accident in the province this month involving a passenger van with multiple deaths

The incident is the second passenger van accident in Sa Kaeo province in the last month with a horrific accident on Sunday, August 15th claiming 11 lives. That accident resulted in an urgent and thorough investigation ordered by Thailand’s dynamic Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob when reports emerged that the driver of the vehicle had fallen asleep at the wheel. This involved dispatching investigators to Sa Kaeo to delve into the incident.

Will put the minister under pressure

Today’s accident, however, is bound to create more calls and pressure on the minister in relation to his controversial decision shortly after taking office to cancel a previous order made by his predecessor Arkhom Termpittayapaisith which stipulated that all interprovincial and suburban passenger vans be taken out of service for that function by August 13th and replaced by minibuses.

New Thai Minster has developed a very positive reputation for getting things done

Mr Saksayam of the Bhumjathai Party has stood out from the start among the present Thai cabinet as a man in government who gets things done, has clear ideas about where he is going and makes decisions.

He has brought in proposals to increase the speed limits on certain roads to help ease traffic log jams while at the same time introducing plans to bar heavy vehicles from Bangkok except for a four-hour window in the early hours. He has acceded to calls by Bangkok taxi drivers for a fare rise but kept the flat rate while also proposing reduced fares on mass transit systems to encourage commuters out of their cars.

Passenger vans still a critical component in Thailand’s low-cost and effective transport system

The minister’s decision on passenger vans must be understood in the context of the vital role they play in Thailand’s transport infrastructure where the low cost and efficiency of the service make it one very much in demand.

 To most road safety activists, this argument doesn’t wash and they view the decision to retain the vans as simply a compromise on passenger safety. Their point is that modified passenger vans were designed for carrying goods not human beings and that appropriate vehicles should have a proper aisle and be built to the safety specifications of a bus.

Minster supporters say GPS can be enforced on passenger vans drivers to improve safety

The Minister’s supporters and there are many quite apart from passenger van owners, argue that the passenger van service is economical and safety can be improved by properly enforcing the use of GPS tracking to monitor driver behaviour. The minister has contended strongly that the problems to date including most passenger van accidents relate to overworked and speeding drivers.

They also point out that the vans can negotiate suburban streets and roads where even minibuses would be less agile and likely to contribute further to traffic congestion. The minister’s decision and rationale is understandable and avoids inconvenience, higher costs and longer traffic queues for millions of Thai public transport users who would not have thanked him for deciding otherwise.

Family’s of today’s passenger van victims

For the families of today’s’ shocking tragedy however and the regular incidents involving passenger vans where lives are lost, it amounts to this. Lives are being compromised in a cheap and cheerful transport system where you take your chances for a cheap fare that does get you to your destination faster.

For many Thai people and foreigners including tourists and expats, it is a wager that many regularly take on the popular passenger van system which is really quite efficient and effective except on a day like today when we see the real price to pay.

Further reading:

Horror passenger van smash in Sa Kaew claims 11 lives after another driver falls asleep at the wheel

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