BANGKOK - Nine Cambodians were killed Friday when a mini-bus carrying migrant workers returning home for the Buddhist New Year crashed and burst into flames in eastern Thailand, police said.
The smash was the first major accident of Thailand's Songkran holidays, which bring carnage to the roads each year despite regular safety campaigns.
The mini-bus left the road on a sharp curve in Chanthaburi province in the early morning and smashed into a tree, local police officer Major General Chatchai Chaipetch said by telephone.
"Nine people, all of them believed to be Cambodians, were killed at the scene and more than 10 were hospitalised," he said.
A local rescue worker said 14 people were rushed to hospital, including three who were in critical condition.
Thailand's roads are among the world's deadliest and accidents are common, especially on buses travelling during the night.
Hundreds die each year in road accidents during the Buddhist New Year holidays owing to a dangerous mix of alcohol, busy roads, water throwing festivities and reckless driving.
The celebrations officially run from Sunday to Tuesday, but roads and public transport are already busy with people returning home.
A recent report by the World Health Organisation said Thailand saw 38.1 road deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 - behind only the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean and the South Pacific island of Niue.
Dozens of people have been killed in several major accidents involving double-decker buses in recent months, prompting calls for a safety crackdown.