Police Corporal Norawich Buadok was charged with reckless driving causing death in February after public outcry over the incident. The court heard, on Monday, that he was riding an unregistered, untaxed motorbike at speed, without insurance and in the wrong lane when he careered into the popular young ophthalmologist who worked at Chulalongkorn University.
A 21-year-old police officer was jailed for 1 year and 15 days by a court in Bangkok on Monday and also automatically discharged from the Metropolitan Police Bureau after he was found guilty of reckless driving causing the death of ophthalmologist Dr Waraluck Supawatjariyakul in the city on January 21st last when he hit the young woman while travelling at a speed of between 108km or 128km per hour at a zebra crossing in the central Ratchathewi district of the city.
The Criminal Court in Bangkok, on Monday, sentenced a 21-year-old police officer, Police Corporal Norawich Buadok, to 1 year and 15 days imprisonment after finding him guilty of reckless driving causing death and speeding concerning the death of a Dr Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, a young ophthalmologist or eye doctor who worked at Chulalongkorn University, on January 21st last, in central Bangkok.
The tragic incident occurred on the Phaya Thai Road in the Ratchathewi district of the city as Dr Waraluck, known affectionately as Moi Kratai or Dr Rabbit because of her nickname, was crossing the road on foot amid quiet traffic.
Zebra crossing fatal accident drew instant public attention with a rising clamour for criminal charges
The accident occurred on a zebra crossing with the on-duty police officer, riding an unregistered, untaxed and uninsured red and gold Ducati Monster big bike, careering into Dr Waraluck at high speed causing her death.
The circumstances surrounding the case caused an immediate public outcry and massive media attention in Thailand at the outset, as the people clamoured for criminal charges to be brought against the young police officer.
The tragedy also generated a debate among the populace in Bangkok over safety on the city’s roads in the run-up to municipal elections and the poll for governor at the end of May.
Dr Waraluck came from a well-known family of ophthalmologists and was highly respected in her field.
Family filed a ฿72 million lawsuit against the police force over the death of the young woman at the hands of the junior police officer who was on duty
Her family have since filed a ฿72 million lawsuit against the Royal Thai Police over the young woman’s death after it was revealed that Police Corporal Norawich Buadok was on official duty for the force when the accident occurred.
In February, following an intensive police investigation, it was concluded that the junior police officer was driving at an excessive speed, somewhere between 108 km and 128 km per hour, through the city centre intersection where the speed limit was 80 km per hour when he hit the pedestrian just after she had walked onto the zebra crossing.
He was charged with causing the death of the young woman in addition to other offences including speeding, failing to drive on the left-hand side of the road as well as driving a motorbike that was unlicenced, did not have a valid licence plate, had no side mirrors and which was uninsured for third party purposes.
21-year-old police officer sacked from the force
In all, the young police officer who police authorities, through spokesman Police Major General Yingyot Thepjamnong, confirmed on Monday, in the aftermath of the court judgment, is now automatically discharged from the force because of the jail sentence imposed, faced nine charges and was found guilty on all counts.
It is understood that lawyers acting for the now-former policeman will appeal today’s court judgement to the Appeals Court while an appeal may also be made against his removal from the force under the Police Act but this is unlikely to be successful.
The accused had been freed on bail of ฿50,000 and pleaded guilty to all the charges brought against him.
Defendant gets bail as he seeks to appeal Monday’s judgement at the request of his father, a more senior police officer, to the court, ฿200,000 lodged
The court imposed a guilty verdict and sentenced Police Corporate Norawich to 2 years and 30 days imprisonment without suspension with fines of ฿8,000.
This was ฿2,000 for each minor road traffic offence concerning the motorbike on four counts, 30 days for speeding and failing to adhere to road traffic regulation with a 2-year sentence imposed for causing the death of Ms Waraluck through reckless driving.
The sentence including the fine amounts was halved because of the defendant’s guilty plea before the court.
In court on Monday, a visibly shaken Police Corporal Norawich was granted bail after his father, a sub-lieutenant in the Metropolitan Police Bureau who was also his son’s superior in the force, requested temporary release pending an appeal and ฿200,000 was lodged into court as surety after the terms were set.
Police Corporal Norawich served in the Protection and Crowd Control division of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
Debate on road safety in Bangkok and zebra crossings
The tragic case sparked a political debate not only in Bangkok but across the kingdom about road safety and in particular a lack of understanding amongst motor vehicle drivers about proper observance of road traffic laws and in particular, the issue of zebra crossings where there is an obvious lack of regard for the rights of pedestrians.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) 2018 report, on Thailand’s road safety record, found that 55 people die on the kingdom’s roads every day.
Research has consistently shown that part of the problem is a rejection by the Thai public of road safety etiquette and regulation despite ongoing government campaigns and police crackdowns.
In relation to zebra crossings, where pedestrians are theoretically supposed to have a right of way, many foreigners to Thailand are advised strongly by peers with prior experience, not to rely on this in the capital and other urban centres throughout the country with regular documented cases of foreigners killed while crossing Thai roads with many of the deaths caused by motorcycles travelling at speed.
A week after Dr Waraluck’s death, two more people hit by a delivery motorbike near Ramkhamhaeng University in the city at another zebra crossing
The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its 2018 report, confirmed that 74% of fatalities on Thailand’s deadly roads, the second most dangerous in the world, were caused by motorbikes.
Only one week after the death of Dr Waraluck, on January 27th last, two pedestrians had to receive medical attention in Bangkok at a zebra crossing near Ramkhamhaeng University in the city when they were hit by a food delivery motorbike leading them to file a complaint with the police at Hua Mak Police Station in the city.