Bangkok court hands policeman 1-year sentence for running over pedestrian in crosswalk

Nontarat Phaicharoen
2022.04.25
Bangkok
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Bangkok court hands policeman 1-year sentence for running over pedestrian in crosswalk Thai policeman Norawit Buadok arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, April 25, 2022.
Thai News Pix/BenarNews

A Bangkok court convicted and sentenced a policeman to a year and 15 days in prison Monday for killing a pedestrian with his motorcycle at a crosswalk here, in a case that angered Thais and drew attention to the dangers of crossing city roads on foot.

The victim’s father as well as Thai netizens criticized the relatively light sentence handed to 21-year-old Norawit Buadok for speeding and fatal reckless driving when he ran over eye doctor Waralak Supawat-Jariyakul at a zebra crossing on a busy road in the Thai capital Jan. 21. He was off duty at the time of the incident.

“The court found him [Norawit] riding at speed in a crowded hospital area, disregarding the crosswalk sign. He ignored the safety of [lives] and the properties of others. The court indicated how serious the action was,” Nattapon Shinnawong, the lawyer for the victim’s family, said Monday outside the Criminal Court in Bangkok. 

“The court sentenced him to one year and 15 days in jail and a fine of 4,000 baht [U.S. $ 117] and revoked his driving license without conditions.” 

Waralak’s family did not attend Monday’s court hearing.

“This case is serious because the defendant was a policeman, but he broke the laws. So he deserves even harsher punishment,” Waralak’s father, Aniruth Supawatjariyakul, told reporters Monday.

The maximum punishment for a case in which a pedestrian is killed as a result of a motorist’s negligence is 10 years.

Norawit, a lance corporal, had earlier pleaded guilty to all charges, including reckless driving causing death, driving a vehicle without a license plate, failing to stop at a crosswalk, exceeding the speed limit, and five other charges. At that time, he was released on 50,000-baht bail because he had confessed after surrendering to the authorities.

On Monday, Norawit was again released on bail for 200,000 baht (U.S. $5,870) with his father, a police sub-lieutenant, acting as a guarantor, the defendant’s lawyer told reporters, adding that they would appeal the sentencing.

“Norawit is sad. He admitted his fault and has confessed since the beginning,” said his lawyer, Sonthaya Noicharoen.

The victim’s family has filed another civil case against Royal Thai Police and Norawit, in which the plaintiffs have asked for 72 million baht ($2.1 million) in compensation, Sonthaya said, adding the court has set Aug. 8 for a hearing.

Norawit has been temporarily dismissed from police service, a police spokesman said Monday.

Netizens skewer verdict

Many netizens, meanwhile, expressed anger and dismay at the leniency of the sentence given to Norawit.

“Are you confused about the inconsistency in the laws of this country? Someone who posted on Facebook was sentenced to 29 years in prison; a driver who killed a person will go to prison for only one year,” asked Twitter user @madmax68176958, referring to the long jail term for a Thai man in 2015 for allegedly insulting the king.

Another Twitter user @maewtyping posted sarcastically: “The punishment was so heavy, I got goosebumps. Plus, get a fine of 4,000 baht. No one dared to do this anymore….”

However, one Bangkok construction worker saw the sentence as reasonable.

“It was his first accident out of carelessness, not a murder. I think the penalty was reasonable,” Piya Thitikorakoj told BenarNews. “The public was outraged because he did not even come to the doctor’s aid after hitting her.”

The accident became a high-profile case in the country, primarily because it involved a police officer who was, according to investigators, riding at 108-128 km per hour instead of stopping at a zebra crossing.

Norawit was also roundly criticized for entering the monkhood after the fatal accident to “earn merit.” After a public backlash, the Sangha Supreme Council, the Thai Buddhist governing body, said it would disrobe the suspended policeman.

The fatal accident also highlighted the country’s abysmal road safety record, especially for pedestrians.

Thailand had the highest mortality rate in road traffic injury deaths in Asia and ninth highest globally, with 32.7 fatalities per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

According to government data, some 20,000 to 22,000 people die in road accidents every year in Thailand. The Thai public health ministry reported 800 to 1,000 pedestrians were killed between 2016 and 2018.

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