People found driving under the influence in Thailand can land in the morgue, as a legal punishment aimed at making offenders reflect on the consequences of their irresponsible actions.
The week-long Thai New Year celebrations starts Wednesday, a festival characterized by paying respect to elders by sprinkling water over one’s hands or on statues of Buddha.
However, in recent times, it has been marked by the number of casualties at the hands of not-so-respectful drivers, intoxicated by late-night, alcohol-fueled street parties — which is why the Songkran is now dubbed as “Seven Days Of Danger.”
Nonjit Natepukka, director of community Affairs and community service division, said that despite sentencing drunk offenders to community service like cleaning roads, cutting trees or helping hospital staff look after patients, many failed to change their dangerous habits.
So this year, the probation department is taking community service to the next level: by sending drunk drivers to help hospital staff in the mortuary, in a bid that the “shocking” and gory work will make them realize the errors of their way.
“They should see the actual physical and mental damage,” said Anurak Amornpetchsathaporn, director of emergency response for the Bureau of Public Health. “In the morgue, they will have to be cleaning up and transporting bodies, so that hopefully they would feel the pain, so that they may understand and attain a good conscience, so that it could be safer on the roads.”
The Thai cabinet approved a proposal submitted last week and now a court will decide whether offenders deserve to serve at a morgue after conviction.
Thailand has the second-highest number of road deaths in the world. The New Year festivities see 2.3 people die every hour and 160 injured. Officials are working to reduce the number of casualties but as Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said, motorists themselves are the most important element in preventing accidents.