Thai PM refuses to use absolute power to control street racers

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha admitted he didn't want to punish parents of teen racers but said society had to change to solve the problem, so the law also had to evolve.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday he wouldn't evoke the power under Article 44 in the interim charter to tackle the problem of street racing.

Prayut said normal laws could still be used to handle this issue and related agencies were instructed to solve this problem from the family-level. The idea of opening a racetrack would also not be implemented yet, he said.

The PM's comment was in contrast to one made earlier by Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya. Paiboon said that moves, backed by a soon-to-issued order by the National Council for Peace and Order, would be announced next week to tackle the problem at its initial stage - by making it an offence for teens to gather prior to a street race.

Paiboon said he also ordered officials to survey for a racecourse location far from communities. Motorcycle parts and accessory shops supporting street racing would also face legal action, he said, adding that parents should also help solve this problem.

The minister admitted he didn't want to punish parents of teen racers but said society had to change to solve the problem, so the law also had to evolve.

National police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung said yesterday that a meeting of related agencies on Monday to discuss the matter concluded that short-term, mid-term and long-term measures should be undertaken.

In the short term, police will set up checkpoints from 11pm to 6am, as well as assigning a special 50-strong team for each area in Bangkok and provinces in the vicinity to ensure consistency and smooth operation, he said.

The mid-term would see related agencies improve their operations against street racing while the long-term solution was for legal amendments to provide proper punishment to related parties and possibly lengthen the racers' rehabilitation period from the current 15 days to be one or two months, he said.

Somyot said solutions for the racing issue, as well as a problem of alcohol outlets located too near to educational institutes or schools should be clearer by the end of the month. The police chief said he supported the idea of using the Article 44 to solve the two problems because related law amendments would take too long.

Meanwhile, Provincial Police Region 7 chief Pol Lt-General Weerapong Cheunpakdee said yesterday an operation from June 12-15 to crack down on street racers and substandard motorcycle part shops and motorbike-modifying sources had been a success. He told the press police had seized a total of 3,459 illegally-modified exhaust pipes from shops and 2,991 illegally-modified exhaust pipes at checkpoints, as well as 300 illegally-modified bikes.

In Nakhon Pathom alone, the June 12-15 operation saw 929 people arrested along with 176 illegally modified bikes and 1,081 illegally-modified exhaust pipes.

Somyot had previously instructed Technology Crime Suppression Division to investigate social media and web-pages that share information about police checkpoints so racers can avoid arrest, including several pages, each with over 20,000-30,000 members, in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

Pol Maj-General Thakoon Nattheesri, chief of Nakhon Ratchasima police, said yesterday he had instructed officials to probe such pages, and urged site administrators to close pages with such content. Evidence would be gathered and used against those who defied these orders, he said.

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