The tragedy, which claimed 19 lives, has prompted Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt to consider additional measures such as safety briefings for people on interprovincial buses.
The Roi Et-Bangkok bus, operated by Transport Co Ltd, was travelling on Mittraphap Road – the main route to the Northeast – when it was hit by a trailer-truck going the opposite direction, which ran across a safety island and crashed into it. The impact caused the two-level bus to catch fire.
As well as the 19 deaths, some 20 passengers were injured. Most of those killed died inside the bus and their bodies were burnt.
“Preliminary investigation suggests the driver of the trailer-truck fell asleep behind the wheel,” Pol First Lieutenant Assavathep Jantanaree, an officer at Kaeng Khoi police station, said.
Truckdriver Sa-ard Boonyang, 29, survived the accident and is being treated at the Kaeng Khoi Hospital.
At press time, officials had only identified six of the dead. Saraburi volunteers with the Ruamkatanyu Foundation said the bus driver was among those killed.
Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) commander Pol Maj-General Dr Pornchai Suthirakhun said autopsies would determine if the deceased died before flames reached them.
“The level of carbon monoxide in their bodies will be the key indicator,” he said.
For victims with dental records, he said the identification process could be completed within one day.
“For victims without dental records, the process will be longer because it involves DNA testing of their parents or children,” Pornchai said. With the DNA tests, the process could be done within 48 hours.
Parichat Boonmueang, 31, said she was able to identify the body of her supervisor Sakhon Sawasdiphon from a ring he wore.
“He made a phone call to his elder sister right after the accident took place. He told her that he was trapped inside the bus,” she said.
Chadchart said the GPS record showed that the bus was travelling at a speed of 78 kilometres an hour at the time of the accident.
“That’s not very fast,” he said.
While he did not think the crash occurred because of any fault of the bus firm, he said he would meet with the company’s top executive today to discuss on safety measures for buses.
Transport Co Ltd is a state enterprise under the supervision of the Transport Ministry.
“We will discuss on additional safety measures. Perhaps, we can improve the design of emergency-exit doors or provide safety briefings to passengers the way flight passengers do once they get on an aircraft,” the minister said.
Chadchart said the bus firm and Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department had been instructed to set up a center to take care of crash victims and their relatives. “Kaeng Khoi police station serves as the coordination center,” he said.
Abhisit Vejjajiva also urged the government to affirm its stance on using non-violence and treating the Southern Unrest as a domestic issue.
He said the government should talk with Malaysia, the peace-dialogue facilitator, about rules for both sides to follow to ensure they work together, instead of the current practice of working separately and competing for advantages.
He also urged the government to not just allow National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanathabutr or Deputy PM Pracha Promnok to answer questions separately.
Government deputy spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat said Pracha and Paradorn were the correct people to provide news about the unrest as they were directly involved and had expertise in national security.
Abhisit said the government should tell the international community that Thailand did not use violence and had methods to investigate incidents of unrest. When the BRN made the accusations, it wanted to confuse outsiders and elevate the problem.
He suggested positive information could be spread through an appointed spokesman or press releases.
Abhisit said he was concerned about the government’s lack of sensitivity in solving the unrest, particularly its lack of protest against the declaration of Songkhla’s Sadao district as a violence zone. He said the government’s attitude should be firm and things should not be played down out of fear that people would criticize any dialogue attempt.
He said the dialogue, which has been going on for five months, was seemingly being used by the government to woo votes – and by the separatists to publicise the problem. Abhisit said Thailand must insist this was a domestic problem.
He said the authorities must wait for Ramadan to end before assessing incidents. In the meantime, the government should have a working team to coordinate with BRN to ensure both sides were on the same page.
Separately, in Narathiwat’s Tak Bai district, Buddhist couple Chuay Dermmuak and Prapa Sa-nguanpan were shot dead and their eight-year-old son wounded early yesterday afternoon. Two men on a motorcycle opened fire on them before fleeing with the victims’ motorbike.
In another incident, police investigators found that 10 spent bullet cases collected from where another Thai couple were shot dead on July 21 in Rangae district came from the gun used in the separate murders of two Narathiwat teachers late last year. Police suspect the Thai couple’s shooting was in retaliation for the July 19 killing of suspect Masupian Mama in Joh I Rong district.
At 2.25am yesterday, Tambon Klong Maning Adminsitrative Organisation president’s driver, Hama Jehnawae, 45, was shot dead in Pattani’s Muang district. Police are investigating if the death stemmed from a personal conflict rather than from the unrest.
“We are now preparing an official letter to ask the Lands Department to investigate the issuance of title deeds for this golf course and withdraw the title deed of this area,” Boonchob Suthamanuswong, director-general of the Forest Department, said yesterday.
The golf links occupy 109 plots of land covering 1,344 rai in Tambon Huay Pong and Tambon Sam Nak Kra Thon of Muang district.
According to an investigation, about 32 plots located within the links’ grounds are areas where individuals are not allowed to own land.
Seven other plots were located in overlapping areas between the department’s land and private land.
The Lands Department is not authorized to issue title deeds for this golf course, he said.
Provincial authorities had set up a committee to investigate the issuance of
— Phuket Gazette Editors