Thai government now denies issuing Songkran clampdown

The government on Saturday denied having issued a set of nine restrictions for the Songkran holiday, saying it was a campaign to discredit the regime which was under heavy fire for new traffic regulations.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the Prime Minister’s Office had nothing to do with the restrictions that were circulating on social media ahead of the long holiday.

The supposed restrictions prohibited Songkran revellers from wearing tight and revealing clothes and using high-pressure water guns and hoses among others with a warning that offenders would be severely punished.

Lt Gen Sansern said groups with ill intentions were capitalising on the controversial traffic rules to undermine the administration.

“Some groups want to discredit the government by linking these [alleged nine restrictions] with the new traffic regulations and a ban on water throwing on [main] roads. They want to make the public feel that the government is giving them a difficult time,” he said.

This is another example of Thailand’s government by gameshow as ruling is issued, public opinion gauged, ruling changed and then denials are issued. The give-away is this. The Songkran clampdown was announced on April 1 by ThaiPBS, the government broadcasting outlet.

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The spokesman was referring to last week’s traffic regulations barring people from sitting in the tray of pickup trucks and requiring every passenger to fasten their seatbelts including those in commuter vans and taxis.

After an uproar from the motorists, the government decided to delay enforcing the pickup truck rules.

Lt Gen Sansern said that some of the bogus restrictions were “guidelines” made by the cabinet during previous years of the Songkran festival.

He said traffic regulations were introduced out of concerns for public safety but some people mistook them as being “ill-intended”.

Lt Gen Sansern also urged the public not to share the “fake restrictions” and help clarify the facts.

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 passenger vans are required to comply with the passenger seat limitation rule by April 10, Department of Land Transport chief Sanith Phromwong said.

He said the passenger seat limitation at 13 had taken effect since March 31 after being published in the Royal Gazette and it is part of the efforts to enhance safety in public vehicles.

Concerns over passenger van safety reached its peak following a collision on Jan 2 between a passenger van and a pickup truck.

The accident killed 25 people after the van exploded on Road No.344 in Chon Buri’s Ban Bung district.

Mr Sanith said a total of 15,808 passenger vans across the country must remove extra seats before the Songkran holiday kicks off.

The operators are also required to adhere to a requirement for an emergency exit.

Those who violate the passenger seat limitation face a fine of 5,000 baht and disciplinary measures including suspension of driving licences or transport licences, he said.

However, the department chief said authorities are likely to be lenient and may opt to issue fines of 500 baht and give the offenders a warning before the mandatory inspection of passenger vans in June.

Mr Sanith said the passenger van operators may have to bear some expenses for removing the seats to comply with the new seat rule.

Meanwhile, the transport sector is bracing for an early exodus of Songkran revellers.

Transport Co announced increases in its services beginning Monday, through Wednesday (April 10-12) to accommodate 180,000 passengers a day.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith inspected the Mor Chit 2 bus terminal as some Songkran revellers began leaving the city.

-The Bangkok Post

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