UNCOVERING THE DANGERS OF TOUR BUSES IN THAILAND – It’s often been said that Thailand is a perilous place for foreigner visitors with the reflection that Thais seem far more concerned about making money than they do about a visitor’s safety. But how accurate is this perception?
One of the most popular modes of transport for foreign visitors and Thais alike are buses and when it comes to VIP buses most foreigners conjure up images of luxury and of course safety; if only this was the case.
In less than a week Thailand has experienced a number of public transport disasters to hit the international press. The first was a public train that derailed injuring some 57 foreign tourists. Days later, a VIP tour bus crashed and quickly became engulfed in flames killing 19 people and within hours another VIP tour bus overturned injuring 22 people.
This is of course just within the space of just one week and barely scratches the surface of the number of road accidents in Thailand due to poorly maintained vehicles and the severe lack of driver training; some drivers don’t even have a licence and tour companies often employ them due to them being cheaper to hire.
What about the tour operators and the vehicles they own and maintain? Are foreign tourists really safe in their hands?
Considering the number of crashes, often which result in multiple deaths, we need to take a closer look at the vehicles themselves, their construction and maintenance.
In a recent damaging report it has been suggested that operators of private transport businesses, especially those involved with tourism, care little about safety and will ignore basic safety standards to ensure the vehicle is continuously making money.
The most popular tour buses in Thailand are the double-decker VIP variety, due to their ability to carry more passengers. However, it has been brought to light by one vehicle technician who works in the industry of modifying buses, that these vehicles are death-traps and should never be allowed on the roads; let alone carry passengers.
According to Government standards a double-decker bus, with eight wheels, must not exceed a height of 4 metres, while buses with the standard six wheel configuration must not exceed 3.6 metres.
However it is common knowledge that due to the lack of safety inspections or requirements by the Government the heights of vehicles generally exceed 4.5 metres.
Another aspect is seating capacity in which the Thai Government limits to no more than 40 seats. Once again the regulations are overlooked or official inspectors are paid under the table to look the other way. The result is that buses regularly consist of a seating capacity of between 50 and 55 passengers.
The vehicle technician who reported the irregularities has asked to remain anonymous but went on to say that the last 70 vehicle he modified were of a standard chassis size, that being 2.5 metres wide and yet none were modified to take the additional weight of the upper deck.
The glass on the upper deck also adds to the dangers as this is generally toughened glass which adds even more weight to the vehicle and makes it extremely unstable. In the event the bus topples passengers are unable to break the glass and escape; the bus literally becomes their tomb.
Wider based chassis, according to the technician, are only available from overseas manufacturers and with the vast import duties imposed on vehicles and their parts, notably over 300%, operators simply will not spend the money.
In order to keep costs low all manner of corners are cut and the tour operators make it perfectly clear that tourist safety is of no concern. If a bus crashes and people die then the insurance company will replace the bus; regardless of its illegal modifications.
It seems apt that the Marine Chief in Phuket was once quoted, when questioned about tourist rip-offs and safety, as saying; “We don’t have to worry there are always more tourists and tourists can afford to be ripped off; their all rich.”
There have been in the last few years hundreds of tourist’s deaths in Thailand due to poor or non-existent safety standards or worse where they are simply swept aside due to corruption.
Once again these types of media revelations will severely damage Thailand’s reputation of a tourist destination and whilst the Thais attempt to block such reports many feel that Thailand needs to suffer the consequences of no tourism until they are able to put aside their greed and corruption and concentrate of providing a safe holiday destination.
If you are thinking about visiting Thailand here’s some basic tips:
Avoid Public or Private VIP Buses
Do NOT drive a motorbike without a helmet
Avoid taxis and Tuk Tuks
Never rent a Jet-Ski
Never walk alone at night
Remember do your research before leaving home so that you are well advised of the dangers in a foreign country such as Thailand.
Would you visit Thailand knowing that their only concern is your money? Please leave your comments below. If you have a story you would like us to publish please contact the editor.