It seems like a month doesn’t pass without some sort a tragic accident or natural disaster happening in Asia. Last week, at Halong Bay in Vietnam, a boat sank in the middle of the night killing twelve people, most of them foreign tourists. In November last year there was the horrific scene in Phnom Penh, Cambodia when hundreds of people were trampled to death and suffocated at an outdoor festival. Then there was the bus full of Thai tourists that ran off a road near the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia a few months back, killing dozens. Last year the horror never seemed to stop: another ferry sinking in Bangladesh, flooding in the Philippines, a cinema fire in Taiwan, earthquakes and buried schools in China, another calamity in Pakistan … and more people dying in all of those places.
Here in Bangkok, on New Year Eve two years ago, dozens of people died in the Santika nightclub fire. Another tragedy that could have been prevented with proper crowd control, well-marked fire exits (one tip: the doors should NOT be locked!), and regular building inspections. And in the news just this morning here in Thailand: another bus driver lost control of his vehicle on a mountainous road. The bus plunged into a ravine, killing 14 teachers and injuring another 18 passengers. No doubt the fatalities will be higher tomorrow when this story is updated.
Such “accidents” happen all too frequently here in the Land of Smiles and Sex Change Surgery. Why is that? Granted, some of the events that happen in Asia are natural disasters that can’t be prevented or anticipated, but even in the case of floods and quakes, fatalities could be lessened if people paid more attention and had disaster plans in place. Overall, there just seems to be a general lack of awareness, or at least concern, about safety — and maintaining safety standards — throughout Asia, especially here in Thailand. Many foreigners like me have moved to Thailand because we like the tolerant atmosphere and the happy-go-lucky nature of the Thai people. And yes, some also like the relative lack of regulation and rules. But that’s a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to public safety. When you can’t ride a bus without fearing for your life, walk down the sidewalk without getting run over by a speeding motorcycle, or ride a boat without worrying about it capsizing, then something needs to be changed.