6 June 2024

Thailand’s Criminal Court sentenced a non-commissioned police officer to one year and 15 days in prison and fined him 4,000 baht today (Monday) after finding him guilty of reckless driving causing the death of an eye doctor while she was using a zebra crossing in Bangkok’s Phaya Thai district in January and other charges.

Apart from reckless driving causing death, the officer was also found guilty of using a vehicle which does not display a license plate, failing to drive a vehicle close to the left curb of the traffic lane, failing to stop at a zebra crossing, using a vehicle which is not insured and for which the annual road tax has not been paid and exceeding the speed limit.

In a high-profile case that has raised questions about Thailand’s road safety and lack thereof, Dr. Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, aka “Doctor Kratai”,  an ophthalmologist of the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, was run down by the officer on his motorcycle as she was crossing the road on a zebra crossing in front of the Bhumirajanagarindra Kidney Institute Hospital in Phaya Thai district on January 21st.

The motorcyclist was identified as Pol Lance Corporal Norawit Buadok, a crowd control police officer attached to the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Norawit Buadok was, however, granted unconditional bail on a surety of ฿200,000 on Monday afternoon and can be released immediately, as he is proceeding to appeal the case at the Appeals Court.

According to police report, Norawit was driving the big bike at high speed in the left lane of the traffic and then quickly switched to the right lane, apparently after seeing other cars stopped at the zebra crossing. At the time, Doctor Kratai was on the crossing and she was struck by the motorcycle driven by Norawit.

Both Norawit and Doctor Kratai were injured. She was rushed to Rajavithi Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, while Norawit waited at the scene of the accident for police to arrive.

Norawit’s superior, Pol Maj Gen Nakarin Sukhontawit, Commander of the Protection and Crowd Control Division, confirmed to Thai PBS World today that the officer has not, to date, been suspended or dismissed from police service, but that a disciplinary panel is being set up to consider the case, following the guilty verdict and sentencing.

Three days after the accident, Norawit entered the monkhood at a temple in the Rama III area, only to quit three days later, after the public questioned his suitability as a monkhood.

The fatal accident triggered public uproar and demands for better safety for pedestrians using zebra crossings. In quick response to public sentiment, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) ordered improvements to zebra crossings across the capital, by repainting and expanding the crossings to become more visible to drivers. Stop signals were also installed at more than 100 crossings.

The public has also demanded higher penalties for drivers who ignore zebra crossings.

Phaya Thai police submitted the case to public prosecutors on February 10th and Norawit was indicted 12 days later.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family has filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court, demanding 72 million baht in compensation from the accused and the Metropolitan Police Bureau.