Are Thailand’s tour buses safe

PHUKET, 9 August 2017: Thailand’s horrifically poor record for road safety was highlighted again when a tour bus carrying 25 Chinese tourists careered off a hilly road in Phuket and almost plunged down a steep mountain slope, late Sunday evening.

The accident occurred near Patong beach close to the scene of two other earlier accidents that occurred 11 July and 30 June.

The latest accident follows reports in the travel trade that Chinese tour operators have cancelled hotel allotments at some hotels in Patong Bay saying they would not risk transferring their guests over the hilly road that leads to the bay.

Credit MRG Online

The latest accident on Sunday again underscores the lack of adequate driving standards and casts doubt on the maintenance of tour buses. The driver in the 30 June accident claimed his brakes failed. However, police officers noted that tour buses often exceed the speed limit.

Thirty people were injured in the latest accident, 25 Chinese tourists on the bus and five others who were travelling in a Tuk Tuk and motorcycle.

Patong police said the bus slid halfway off the road but was stopped from hurtling down the mountain by a large pipe. Police said the bus was travelling too fast on a steep hilly road with hairpin bends.

The  25 Chinese tourists on the bus  were clients of Pacific Holiday and  were on their way back to the Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa. Only the bus driver remains hospital and he faces criminal charges.

The 11 July bus accident, also on the mountain road leading to Patong, killed two Chinese tourists. In the wake of that accident the Governor of Phuket called for an emergency meeting where he demanded a full investigations and review of tour bus safety.

In that accident the bus hurtled out of control into power poles and destroyed house frontages. Seven of the 31 tourists on board suffered serious injuries, two died from their injuries and the rest suffered minor injuries treated at hospital. In that incident the tour bus was registered in Phang Nga province.

Credit MRG Online

The driver claimed his brakes failed as he approached a hairpin bend close to the bottom of the hill.

In the late June accident, a bus carrying Chinese tourists down the same mountain road slammed into a concrete wall built in front of a house to stop runaway vehicles from ploughing into the home.

That crash left one person dead and  26 Chinese tourists injured. Media reports claimed Lojarus Travel Co Ltd owned the bus.

Thailand has the second worst safety road safety record, worldwide, based on fatalities. Up until August more than 8,000 people have died on Thai roads and they are just fatalities recorded at the scene of accidents.

If Thailand had improved its safety and security, its ranking on the World Economic Forum would have been considerably higher in 2016. Apart from safety and security the country’s performance was positive.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has said on various occasions that it is introducing “standards” for tourism including tour buses. However, it is very reluctant to answer questions on the practical measures it is taking to ensure tour buses meet international safety standard and drivers are properly trained and licensed. International tourists and the tour companies that promote Thailand are none the wiser as the Ministry’s information is largely dated and in Thai.

Questions on safety and security filed with the Ministry and the Minister’s office routinely go unanswered and even an acknowledgement is not forth coming,