The latest proof of that resilient good humour comes after the government issued orders under the allpowerful Article 44 to strictly enforce existing rules for motorists requiring them to wear seatbelts, limiting the number of passengers in pickup cabs and banning passengers from riding in the back cargo beds.
Ahead of the Songkran Festival next week, when thousands of people will hit the road to visit their hometowns, the measures are meant to curb the road death toll during the notoriously bloody holiday.
As such, the requirements for people to buckle up are welcome, but many people have cried foul about the rules regarding passengers in pickup cabs and cargo beds, which effectively bans a very common mode of transport in the Kingdom.
On the serious side, the order effectively leaves many people, particularly lowincome earners, with no transport options during the long holiday, but the sense of humour displayed on social media mocking the authorities’ decision is drawing the most attention.
Police have insisted the regulations have existed for a long time, but were not fully implemented. In truth, they were rarely even partially enforced, although they can result in serious consequences as passengers sitting in the rear cargo beds are especially vulnerable to serious injury or death in an accident.
However, people have criticised the order, which went into effect yesterday, as being too rushed and failing to allow enough time for people to adjust their travel plans, particularly for Songkran, which begins on April 13.
The criticism has been heard most loudly on social networks, Facebook in particular. While there is clearly genuine anger and unhappiness at the inconvenience cause by the order, most striking has been the creative humour illustrating the problems with the new rules.
One Facebook user, “Nong Ton Korhuai”, addressed the twoperson limit for passengers in a pickup cab, posting photos and a video of him putting his young daughter in a cardboard box – effectively turning her into “cargo” instead of another passenger inside his pickup cab to avoid breaking the rules.
“Lower your head, my little girl, I have to do this. I have no money to buy a new car. I know I look happy but deep down in my heart, I’m very sad. I could not let my daughter stay alone during the festival,” he wrote.
The video drew about 2 million views in just three hours.
Facebook users also made fun of the ban on passengers riding in the cargo bed of trucks, given the Songkran tradition of watersplashing from barrels of water carried in truck cargo beds. A medical laboratory scientist well known on Facebook as “Dr Lab Panda” because of the dark circles around his eyes, photoshopped an image showing him sitting on the bonnet of a pickup with a big bucket and a bowl, ready to participate in the festival from his precarious perch.
Another user posted a photo of a couple lying in a pickup’s cargo bed with a sign reading: “No sitting in the cargo bed.”
Last are photo's of police pickup's and a statement pointing out that police usually transport detainees in truck cargo beds. Setting aside questions of enforcement, even the authorities will be in a quandary if they want to follow the new rules.