Drunken Thai drivers face 'attitude adjustment' sessions

BANGKOK • It is a tool that has been wielded by Thailand's generals to stamp out dissent. But now the so-called "attitude adjustment" session is targeting a new kind of offender: drunken drivers.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed on Thailand's roads, some of the world's most dangerous - a tragedy that spikes during the New Year week.

But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says he has had enough. Under an executive order, police and security forces will be able to detain drunken drivers and those caught racing for between seven and 15 days for compulsory "behavioural correction" sessions.

The order, which was published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday, was made under controversial "Section 44" powers which General Prayut awarded himself to bypass his own rubber-stamp Parliament and issue any law in the name of national security.

The Royal Gazette said that those caught drink driving or racing will not be allowed to refuse the behavioural sessions. But it added: "They should not be treated as suspects... and their detention is not considered detention under the criminal law."

Gen Prayut seized power in a May 2014 coup. The order is similar to powers which the military has since used to detain political critics without charge, a process the army insists on calling an "invitation" to an "attitude adjustment" session.

Most critics are released only when they sign documents vowing not to repeat their offences or risk having their assets seized.

In a study last year on global road safety, the World Health Organisation found that Thailand had the world's second-most dangerous roads, with 36.2 fatalities for every 100,000 people.

The daily carnage spikes around New Year and the April festival of Songkran. The Interior Ministry yesterday said 104 people had already been killed in the first two days of this New Year period's danger week.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'Drunken Thai drivers face 'attitude adjustment' sessions'. Print Edition | Subscribe