Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wednesday, May 01, 2013



(Pic Felix Cooper Robinson)
Two years after a British Coroner sent a ‘Rule 43’ letter to authorities in Thailand making road safety suggestion in relation to bus travel – not even one acknowledgment has been received.

It appears that the letter, also translated into Thai, has either been filed or binned. But it has not stopped the mothers of four young British lads killed by negligence in Thailand from actively campaigning for greater warnings about road travel in Thailand.

Below is the letter (scroll down to the bottom for the Thai version) sent by the Coroner for Brighton and Hove in West Sussex to the local police investigating officer, and also the Transport Office for Ranong Province as well as British authorities.

This was after the inquest into the death of Felix Cooper Robinson, 19. The bus he was travelling in had bald tires and was travelling in excess of 100 kpm when it careered off the road. The seats were not fitted with seat belts of course.

Quite clearly the bus had not been in a fit state for quite some time.

The bus company was never prosecuted. Directors merely changed its name.  The driver, who initially fled the scene, has been on trial but his sentence is not expected to be salutary in any way.

Felix’s mother, Rachel, as earlier reported, is now in Thailand, attending court, meeting local authorities and Embassy officials. A lawyer by profession she is not going to let the death of her son be just another statistic.

To this end she has also had a go at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom.
Below is her letter to a Foreign Office official.

There are a number of issues I wanted to follow up with you arising from your email
1. FCO travel adviceOne of the issues I know you discussed at the December meeting was thetravel guidance given by the FCO and I understand Mr Browne MP agreed he would look again at this. In terms of the risks to travellers the advice ishighly skewed with more focus on political instability/terrorism than onthe dangers of the roads.  
We have put together a 'critique' of the FCO'sguidance which we would ask be considered by the FCO when you are reviewing the guidance. I am sending this also to my MP Caroline Lucas and Chukka Umuna MP both of whom have taken up the issue with the Minister.
The need to update the official FCO advice on road travel in Thailandshould be in keeping with the conclusions of the responsible Thai and SEAsia tourist industry that long distance travel in Thailand is safer by airor train and that travel by coach, particularly unregulated coaches andtravel at night, is dangerous and is  heavily implicated in a number oftraffic accidents including those concerning of tourists.
The lack of significant FCO advice  could be construed as contributing to these.
2. Statistics of fatalities on the road 
I understand that (name removed) has been in touch with you about the statistics being used by the Thai Police and the under-estimate of people the FCO report as being killed on the roads.
In the Channel 4 news report John Sparkes made before Christmas he used figures obtained from the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand which confirmed that 13,700 people were killed in 2010 and that the unofficial toll is nearer 22,000.

Surely even if the FCO must rely on data from the Thai government it is imperative that this data is clearly qualified in the FCO guidance - by confirming that it is an underestimate and unlike the international standard adopted by most countries (of a road death being one that occurs within 30 days of an accident) Thailand under records fatalities (by only recording deaths at the scene of the crash).
3. Issues being discussed by the British Ambassador in his meetingswith the Ministers in Bangkok.
We have been asking what issues are being raised diplomatically inThailand. Whilst it may be that our government cannot dictateThailand's priorities we would like to know what issues are beingraised and to know that the British government's representative isgiving sufficient weight to this important issue of road safety.
 Meanwhile here is the mothers'groups official critique of the FCO's travel advice for visitors to Thailand.

 The FCO has since amended its travel advisory (not enough say the mums.) And of course British Coroner's have no jurisdiction in Thailand and can only hope optimistically that someone is listening. 

Rachel Cooper, second from right, with the mums of Bruno Melling Firth, Max Boomgarden Cook
and Conrad Quashie all 19,who were killed when their bus was broadsided by
another in Kamphaeng Phet.

Looking at the death statistics for the Songkran period and bearing in mind all the warnings issued before hand, either the locals were not listening, or did not take it in. That is the local the mai pen arai quotient.

Here's a short explanation of Rule 43 Inquests.
No assurances from Thailand

If Rachel thinks that the road statistics in Thailand are slightly enhanced - wait till she looks at the murder stats.


Following Ms Rachel Cooper's visit Mr Boonthong Unkajornwong, Director of Land Transport Safety Bureau she says has given the following assurances.

1) Regulations were being introduced now to make seat belts compulsory in all new buses, and from 2014 all existing buses would have 1 year in which to install seat belts.

2) They were introducing 'stress tests' for seats in buses (to ensure they don't come loose in an accident) in their annual vehicle safety check

3) DLT were introducing random vehicle inspections in addition to the current twice yearly inspections. He accepted that there were deficiencies in the current inspection system (eg buses could present with new tyres and then after a positive pass be changed for worn tyres)

4) there will be a requirement for the fitting of GPS systems into buses - so they can check remotely the speed of vehicles and how many hours  worked.

However, he also accepted that the main problem was policing and enforcement of current and future regulations.

British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire is also expected to raise the issue when he visits Thailand later this month.

Original story plus video at this link


  1. The bottom line is: if you value your life don't come to Thailand. It may be cheap, but not worth it.

    1. "The bottom line is: if you value your life don't come to Thailand. It may be cheap, but not worth it".

      Certainly a dramatic comment to make and with respect you appear to be talking out of your bottom.

      Accidents, poor maintenance have been responsible for many incidents in Western countries and police, political and corporate corruption isn't confined solely to Thailand.

      Of course its very sad that young people lost their lives here due to what appears to be inept vehicle maintenance.

      However, I'm sure the relatives of the victims of Kings Cross, Moorgate and Paddington to name but a few, (there are many, many more) would agree their terrible losses might too have been avoided if it were not for ineptitude and management inefficiencies.

      Yes in many respects Thailand is cheaper to live than many Western countries, why not ask yourself why that is? The pompous UK civil servants might think to put their own house in order before taking it upon themselves to make obvious suggestions to a foreign government.

      Probably Thailand is still considered to be a third world country and the corruption which so many people continually bleat about here is a fact of life. That doesn't mean to say the same kind of corruption isn't a fact of life in the West...IT IS!

    2. Inspector, you surely are aware from your investigations and enquiries just how many incidents in Thailand are life threatening. You are trained to look at the evidence but your post suggests you have not done so.

      No-one has said that corruption is limited to Thailand. UK and US banks etc etc. It is the usual riposte of the Thai apologist to say "Ah, yes, but it's the same everywhere else" You should not have fallen into that trap and should have used your investigative skills to less biased purposes.

      Corruption is everywhere but it is not the same in Thailand and the West. For one thing, it is not endemic in the West and it is certainly not a part of an acceptable national culture as it is in Thailand. And you underemphasise how that is linked to the high murder rate here.

      And it is perfectly proper for western diplomats to concern themselves and make comments to foreign governments when their own citizens lives are at stake. They should in my view be doing more to warn the people who are paying their salaries, however inconvenient that may be when being wined and dined at diplomatic parties.

    3. "Corruption is everywhere but it is not the same in Thailand and the West. For one thing, it is not endemic in the West and it is certainly not a part of an acceptable national culture as it is in Thailand".

      Doi, I find myself agreeing with much of what you post, however I disagree that corruption isn't endemic in the West. The current Global crisis caused by corrupt western politicians and financial institutions is proof of that.

      I didn't investigate or under emphasise the murder statistics here as I not sure how you would correlate murders in Thailand directly to corruption?

      However,I would hazard a guess that murders are lower here than many other third world countries and certainly lower than the number of civilians murdered in the search for none existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    4. I would not disagree about banks etc.

      But, by any definition of endemic, western corruption is not CULTURALLY ACCEPTED in the UK (and other western countries) . It is in Thailand. That is the point.

    5. The point is... a growing apathy towards corruption in the West is rife, a simple example of this were the concerns expressed years ago by many that Middle England was "going bent" and unfortunately that happened.

      The UK has growing corruption, economic and social problems and multiculturalism not to mention the lowering of overall standards and the dumbing down of the electorate is responsible. For example the term "Spin" wasn't used until Spin Doctors realised if they repeated the lies often enough a large number of the electorate would come to believe those lies and vote accordingly.

      The point is...lead by example and many of the Western politicians, bankers and civil servants exhibit an astonishing armory of dishonesty, half truths, spin, lies and breathtaking double standards.

      Of course corruption here is a part of the culture and system but its also a part of the culture and system in the West and comparing corruption here by Western standards isn't possible for several reasons that would take too long to explain.

      For the posters mentioning corrupt / poor vehicle maintenance here, how many false MOT certificates have been issued (sold) in the UK, how many "cut and shut" vehicles sold? Poor maintenance in the UK has been responsible for many accidental deaths, so as the saying goes "people in glass houses" etc.

      Final note...I'm not saying the system here is perfect but believe it or not in some ways its better and the sentencing of people for theft here is an example. Saying if you value your life don't come on holiday to Thailand is sensationalist bullshit, I value my life and I live here. Its simple, if you want to come to Thailand then come here be aware, tolerant and careful, unfortunately traffic accidents happen all over the world not just Thailand.

    6. A long reply but not really saying much with respect. Of course there is corruption the West. I and others have already mentioned it. But is it not a universal culture with westerners nor is it regarded as acceptable. It is acceptable here. Take a look at some of Welty' books, or Mae Pen Rai by Hollinger, or Thailand Take 2 or a Thailand Diary

      It will reinforce your comments but perhaps put is a more accurate perspective.

    7. Doi old chap...a much shorter reply for you.

      As far as reading Carol's book first published in the mid sixties, I have news for you...the world's moved on since them and whether you believe it or not so has Thailand.

  2. I wish them well and hope that something concrete and lasting is done about this.

    However, after 12 years in Thailand I see no evidence of things ever changing. Responsibility and accountability in pretty much anything are simply alien concepts.

    Saving face, corruption and archaic notions of feudalism make sure that nothing is ever done.

  3. Actually British coroners have been lobbying the Thai authorities for many years about these matters. Recurring themes have been Brits killed in road accidents (as in this story), overly short police reports dealing with criminal cases involving Brits, lack of statistics and even autopsy reports bereft of any detail. Progress historically hasn't exactly been earth-shattering, but I'm sure everyone wishes the family success in this latest tragedy.

  4. "...he also accepted that the main problem was policing and enforcement of current and future regulations."

    That's all one need know about visiting here. Life is cheap and lies are free. Very glad these women are taking a stand-at least warn visitors as to realities.

    However, I urge they read 1-2 Go crash account though before recommending flying.

    1. Wow - forgot about that Christy. Yes 1-2-Go story was horrific