Thailand in the News Week Ending 01/02/10

New Year’s Day road deaths 37% higher than last year

New Years day in Thailand saw the usual carnage on the roads with 686 road accidents killing 70 people and injuring 737, bringing the casualty count for the long holiday to 238 deaths and 2,725 injuries from 2,510 accidents.

The death toll was 37% higher than last years toll with accidents edging in at 50% higher than last year. More than half of all the accidents were related to drunk driving and speeding.

From The Nation:

Most accidents involved motorcycles at 84.9 per cent and occurred between 4pm-8pm. Checkpoints stopped 715,516 vehicles and arrested 69,515 motorists, with the main offence being not carrying a driver’s licence at 23,006 cases, followed by bikers not wearing a helmet at 21,195 cases.

While Yasothon was the only province still to report no accidents, Nakhon Si Thammarat had the most at 83 followed by Phetchabun at 82 and Chiang Mai at 80.

Chanthaburi and Ayutthaya were the most deadly at 10 deaths each, while Phetchabun had the most injuries at 99 followed by Nakhon Si Thammarat at 98.

The government began the seven-day safe driving campaign on Tuesday to reduce road casualties by 5 per cent from the last New Year break, which had logged 367 deaths and 4,107 injuries in road accidents nationwide.

Uthairat also said the Excise Department had arrested 277 roadside shops for selling alcoholic drinks without permission and had revoked 26 liquor licences for selling booze during times and at venues that were prohibited.

The checkpoints seem to be getting more than a fair few drivers off the road but I think Thailand will have to double or triple the amount of checkpoints next year to make any discernible impact in the numbers. The best advice I can give is stay off the roads of Thailand during the New Years holidays because the odds are against you.

More North Korean Refugees Arriving in Thailand

While the outrage over the repatriation of the Hmong refugees back to Laos continues more North Koreans flee to Thailand. Many North Koreans fleeing their country take the long and dangerous over land route through China and Laos , finally crossing the Mekong into Northern Thailand.

Thai immigration Authorities stated they have taken over 1000 North Koreans into custody during 2009 which was a marked increase over the 400 in 2008.  If caught during their journey to Thailand the North Korean refugees would be returned to their home country by both China and Laos. Thailand holds a different view on these poloitical refugees.
Police superintendent Sutham Chatarsa says:

they come to Thailand because, unlike in China and Laos, they will not be sent home, where they could face execution.

We don’t have the policy to send them back to North Korea,” he said.  “We want to take care of them until they are accepted into a third country.  It’s not the same as people coming from Cambodia or Laos.  North Koreans come here because of political problems.  So, we want them to get to a third country.

Diplomats from 12 natins met in Thailand last year to discuss the situation and raise awareness to the plight of North Korean refugees. It was noted that North Koreans caught fleeing by other countries such as Laos and China faced abuse before being returned and it was concluded that pressure needed to be put on China and other countries in the region to give these refugees legal status.

Thai authorities expect the number of refugees from North Korea to grow in the coming years and this issue needs to be addressed now before more problems arise.

Jazzman Rice Ramping up Production

The Louisiana Company that claims to have re-produced Thailand’s famous Jasmine rice is in the news again claiming that by 2011 they will be producing as much as 63,000 tons of the rice which would account for as much as 18%  of 2009 imports.

Thailand was initially upset with Jazzman and they conducted tests on the rice to see if the company had violated Thailand’s patent on the Hom Mali rice which is the Thai name for Jasmine rice. The concluded  that the jazzman rice was of an inferior Chinese variety.

Question is…will it matter? Most Americans don’t understand the differences between rice and if Jazzman can get the rice production back on par to what it was before hurricane Katrina struck the region then Thailand could lose a very big share of the American Market.

American rice farmers will never produce any amount of rice to rival Thailand’s production but they may be able to produce just enough of a strain close enough to take away some serious market share.

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7 Comment(s)

  1. Talen, I drove about an hour and a half out of BKK on New Year’s day. Heading out, traffic was stopped by a ten car pileup (and those were only the cars that had not been towed away). Coming back, traffic was halted by a two car accident that went across the dividers (coming and going). Both cars were flipped and totaled. I won’t be driving anywhere next New Year’s holiday.

    On the subject of rice… The Americans can have Jazzman (Jasmine). My first preference is the lovely Japanese variety (porcelain white). My second is the Thai gourmet rice found at Paragon.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Thai Typing Tutor Game =-.

    Catherine | Jan 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Cat, I wouldn’t want to drive in Bangkok on an average day much less a holiday.

    Talen | Jan 3, 2010 | Reply

  3. Talen I think the figures are even worse now.

    What I would love to know is what exactly will happen to all the folks stopped for not having a licence(albeit on them) because the chances are they don’t have one at home either. Of course I already know the answer.

    Given the huge publicity about cutting accidents this New Year I fancy the Road Transport Department will be keeping a low profile or the Minister might well be joining the guys from the Health Department (mis-appropriation of funds). Because the few million Baht spent on the Don’t Drive Drunk Campaign would appear to be water down the drain.

    Last night I had a very pleasant meal with some Thai friends, the husband works for the police. he and I shared a bottle of Thai brandy along with some excellent food. When we left MTF(doesn’t drink) drove my truck. He drove his family home. For me it sort of says it all really.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Thai Style Barbecue New Year 2010 =-.

    Mike | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

  4. Mike, You’re right the numbers are worse now.

    Another problem are the checkpoints themselves. During last Songkran I was driving to That Phanom from Mukdahan with Pookie and little brother …little brother was doing the driving and when he saw the checkpoint he took a side road. When asked why Pookie said he lost his license the week before for DWI.

    Pookie or I drove from then on. Even when we did hit a checkpoint on the last night of Songkran they didn’t even care that Pookie didn’t have her license on her ( she had to renew it ) they just wanted us to take an old drunk home that was annoying them.

    I have no doubt your right about the road transport minister….that or he will say they targeted the program in the wrong areas.

    Talen | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. Talen, I read somewhere (might even be on your site) that the road deaths in Thailand are only counted if the person dies at the accident. Those who die later of their injuries are not counted. If this is true, then the death toll is obviously higher than reported.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..My New Year’s Resolution: The 30 Day Trial =-.

    Catherine | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

  6. Cat, not something I’ve heard of before, if true that would very very bad because the numbers could be as much as four times whats reported.

    Talen | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

  7. Talen, I haven’t googled very far… but here is a start –

    According to official statistics (police), 12,858 people were killed in road crashes in 2005. However the real number might even be higher.

    According to documentation from the health sector, the real death toll could be 20,000 or more if victims who die after being removed from the crash scene are included.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..My New Year’s Resolution: The 30 Day Trial =-.

    Catherine | Jan 4, 2010 | Reply

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