BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand recorded more than 440 road deaths during its new year festival dubbed the "Seven Deadly Days", officials figures showed on Monday (April 18), in a 20 per cent spike that undercut a junta crackdown on drink driving.
Thailand has some of the world's most lethal roads, with the accident rate peaking during Songkran, a booze-soaked week-long holiday in April that sees Thais drive back to their home towns.
The death toll over the past week surged 21 per cent compared to last year's holiday, with 442 deaths in 3,447 accidents nationwide, according to figures provided by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
Drink driving accounted for more than a third of the accidents, the data showed.
In 2015, 364 people died on the roads during the same period.
Despite its relative wealth and infrastructure, Thailand has the second most dangerous roads in the world in terms of per capita deaths, according to data collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a 2015 report.
Daniel Kertesz, a WHO representative to Thailand, said the lack of helmet-wearing among motorcyclists was a major factor behind the country's high death rates.
"Legislation and enforcement are major challenges," he added.
Motorcyclists are involved in nearly three-quarters of Thailand's fatal crashes.
Thailand's junta, which seized power in a 2014 coup, has approved harsher - and more creative - penalties for driving under the influence, such as impounding cars and sending offenders to week-long "attitude adjustment" camps.
Last week it also agreed to sentence drink drivers to community service in morgues to show them the impact of their recklessness.
However, the rise in this year's death toll suggests the junta's warnings to drink drivers were ignored.
The kingdom's traffic cops are also notorious for waiving penalties in exchange for bribes and letting wealthy or well-connected lawbreakers off the hook.
Thailand's ruling generals, who have vowed to restore order and tighten security after a decade of political turmoil, have trumpeted crackdowns on a range of crimes, though critics say the sweeps are often short-lived and ineffective.