What lies beneath
When “Tangmo” is concerned, there is no shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In other words, the TV star, who has died tragically in her prime, must have thought it’s never too late for her death to trigger major changes in maritime regulations, their enforcement, and how the rich and powerful dictate related processes.
While several circumstances remain murky, a few things have been clear from Day One, even before Nida Patcharaveerapong’s body was found: No one in that speed boat was wearing a life jacket. Alcohol was apparently flowing on that watercraft where falling off must be easy because effective safety rails must have been considered an eyesore and thus minimized or ruled out. No proper checking took place before the fateful journey regarding every kind of license. Chao Phraya patrol was virtually non-existent.
So far, Tangmo’s death looked like an accident. Social media “detectives” pondering other possible scenarios perhaps may not realize that the most simple explanation can be the most shocking one. What lies beneath a tragedy that has become a national obsession can be a juxtaposition of deceptively-harmless factors or practices.
Life jackets could have made a huge difference. They might displease passengers wanting to take “beautiful” individual or group photos but this safety rule or protocol has never been seriously imposed, especially on those traveling in small, speedy boats in short distances.
Consumption of alcoholic drinks has never been strictly controlled, again, especially on small boats that are poorly-equipped safety-wise but can go very fast on the deep, poorly-lit, and busy waterway. Implementing an anti-alcohol rule can set off an outcry, but it was the same for the initial enforcement of measures against drunk driving. Drinking in the sunset with river winds caressing one’s face is nice, but it can suddenly turn dangerous and life-threatening, too.
The usage of speed boats has never been comprehensively regulated. The increasing presence of the small, luxurious vessels and the growing number of people involved require the controllers to be properly licensed, and the allowing of unlicensed people to take the wheel to be deemed one of the gravest offenses of boat owners. Whether on business or pleasure trips, controllers have never been made to think that it’s their absolute responsibility to make everyone wear life jackets or refrain from drinking. Somehow, boat operators or controllers have come to think their priority is to entertain, which is a potentially disastrous mistake.
River patrol must significantly increase, to both enforce those rules and provide safety in the event of an accident. Random checks have to be made to make sure measures regarding life jackets and alcohol consumption are observed.
These rules concern rich people, so their violations can be hard to deal with. But if the authorities can fine taxi drivers who are dressed “improperly”, they certainly are capable of forcing those in luxurious vessels to observe rules for their own safety.
Seriously enforcing or upgrading existing rules would have taken away a lot of questions surrounding Tangmo’s death. She might not have died in the first place. The boat driver would have demanded that everyone wear a life jacket, seriously restricted alcohol consumption, and vehemently banned unsafe activities. Inexperienced hands would not have been allowed at the wheel.
Tangmo herself might not have been aware of good speedboat protocol but she apparently was not a regular passenger. She was not alone in that. For one speedboat “captain”, there are five or more people like her. It’s, therefore, up to those who know better and are in positions to make things safer to help them.
Underneath the mystery surrounding her death is a glaring picture of what is not right, not just on that night and in that dark, gloomy spot, but also in broad daylight and in many places else, too.
By Tulsathit Taptim