An announcement on 17th February in the Government Gazette refers to the prohibition of passengers to stand while riding on songthaews. This is the very common form of public transport across Thailand, including Hua Hin, with two rows of seats in the back of a converted pick-up.
Standing at the rear of these vehicles, where a small platform enables easy access into the vehicle, has long been ‘normal’ for passengers, especially during rush hours. Multiple passengers can be seen daily on Thailand’s roads, standing at the rear of the songthaew, holding on to handrails. This often includes school children.
The announcement on 17th February will make it mandatory that all passengers sit down; apparently as a safety measure, but the operators of these vehicles are not happy.
One of the issues is the ability for this form of public transport to remain financially viable if passenger numbers are limited, especially with rising fuel costs.
Operators also believe that trying to stop passengers standing will be impossible and if they refuse to pick up passengers when all the seating is taken, complaints will be made.
There has been no sign of enforcement of this new rule in Hua Hin to date, where there are multiple songthaew routes.
This seems to be another ‘rule’ with discretionary and inconsistent enforcement (think motorbike helmets or safety belts), which may do little to improve the safety issues of Thailand’s roads.