Accident is prompting calls for a change of attitude towards road safety in Thailand. 12 students on the back of the vehicle never had a chance once it overturned yet every day throughout Thailand, people are ferried about in the back of pickup trucks. The problem is one of the public will and determination.

As thirteen families hold services for the students killed on Sunday morning at home in Sis Sa Ket, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has called on Thai people to think carefully about road safety.

On Monday, the bodies of the 13 students killed in the Samut Prakan crash arrived home to Si Sa Ket province as deputy Prime Minister Wongsuwan (inset) called for more safety consciousness on roads and suggested that a 2016 proposed ban on pickup trucks carrying passengers may have prevented the tragedy. The PM (inset) said the deaths were a loss to Thailand and expressed condolences to the bereft families.

It comes as some commentators point out that a 2016 legal provision that was rejected by public opinion then, would have outlawed the carrying of passengers on the back end of pickup trucks. If enacted and enforced, it would have prevented last Sunday’s appalling and mind-numbing tragedy in Samut Prakan.

The death of the 13 students early on Sunday morning in the Bang Phli area of Samut Prakan has left Thailand deeply disturbed about the tragedy itself and the continuing carnage on Thailand’s lethal roads. The kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawin Wongsuwan on Monday came out and spoke indirectly to Thai people through reporters urging them to become more conscious about road safety.

Policemen aware of the real problem -attitude

His statement evoked a sentiment that many conscientious policemen in Thailand will be aware of. The truth is that a significant element of the problem on Thailand’s roads is the attitude of the public who strongly value their freedom of action over state interference. Despite the ongoing death toll, there is still little appetite in Thailand for more demanding road traffic laws. Hence conversely, why Sunday’s accident weighs heavily with people.

Last government sought to ban passengers riding on the back of pickups in 2016

The previous Thai government also led by Pruyut Chan ocha in which Mr Pawit also served as deputy prime minister, attempted in 2016 to outlaw the carrying of passengers on the back tray of pickup trucks.

The pickup truck is immensely popular in Thailand where many people have agricultural roots and the vehicle’s mix of a practical commercial-type vehicle and personal transport embodies the Thai character much the same as in the United States.

Deputy PM – ‘they didn’t want the ban to be enforced’

However, the government’s 2016 proposal was met with outrage and rejection by the public when presented at the time and had to be withdrawn.

It was a similar story with a  range of measures proposed by government agencies and officials to tighten up on the abuse of driving licences in the last few years as well as moves to impose heavier penalties for road traffic violations. 

Deputy PM Wongsuwan referred to the attempt to change the law in 2016 ruefully on Monday. ‘They need to take care of themselves for their safety. They didn’t want the ban to be enforced,’ he observed.

12 students died instantly, never had a chance when the pickup truck overturned on street

Sunday’s appalling tragedy or at least the scale of it, was caused as a direct result of allowing the young trainees to be carried in the back of the vehicle when it hit the utility poles and overturned at speed.

Those 12  students had no chance and were killed instantly leaving police officers and rescue workers responding to the scene facing a nightmare vista when they arrived at the quiet urban street at about 1 am on Sunday. The 13th student killed was travelling inside the cab of the vehicle and died later at Chularat 9 Hospital.

13 vans arrived home to Si Sa Ket in convoy

Early on Monday morning, the 13 students including two alumni, arrived back in Thailand’s province of Si Sa Ket. The death of the young people at the beginning of their working lives brings home the tragedy and the loss not only to their families but also to Thailand which currently needs more younger workers.

On Monday morning each family was dealing with the trauma of the death a young member who only days before was full of life and expected home.

Shocked families awaited their return

The 13 bodies were carried back to Si Sa Ket in the northeast of Thailand near Cambodia by the Poh Teck Tung Foundation in a convoy. The fleet of vans arrived at the Sawangjit Rescue Foundation in the centre of Si Sa Ket where their families and loved one awaited their return.

Funeral rites at local temples

Each body was then taken home and then to local temples where Buddhist funeral rites commenced. All the students attended the Si Sa Ket Technical College.

The shocking accident happened as they left an Isan traditional mor lam concert following a party to mark the end of an on-site working programme organised by the college with a local firm in Samut Prakan.

College director – every effort is being made to support the families at this time including donations

The director of the college, Aksornsilp Kaewmahawong, on Monday said that every effort was being made to support and comfort the families of the young men at what must be a traumatic time as they grieve. He pointed out that a bank account had been established where people can donate funds to assist the families through their ordeal.

Prime Minister – students a great loss to the nation

On Monday, Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha sent his condolences to the families of those who died and pointed out that the loss of the young students was also a great loss to the Thai nation.

Police in Samut Prakan are proceeding with the investigation into the horror crash.

Charges likely following the accident 

Police Colonel Pisut Chantarasuwan, the superintendent of Bang Kaew police has said police are examining CCTV footage of the accident and the wreckage of the vehicle trying to determine its speed when it lost control and hit the poles on the side of the road. He indicated that charges are likely in the matter.

18 passengers travelling on the pickup truck

18 people were travelling on and within the vehicle when it crashed. Six of them were in the driver’s cabin. One of these, a student, died later in hospital while the others were seriously injured, including the driver who police are waiting to interview.

Further reading:

13 students from Isan killed in early morning horror pickup truck crash in Samut Prakan on a main street