The two-lane route used as a detour around part of the Phetkasem highway in Prachuap Khiri Khan, which has been closed by rubber protesters since Sunday, has been heavily damaged by the overwhelming number of vehicles, with repairs already estimated at 30 million baht.
A truck fully laden with pineapples gets stuck in a pothole on the Bang Saphan-Nong Hat Thai-Bang Saphan Noi road detour in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The Bang Saphan-Nong Hat Thai-Bang Saphan Noi road was designed to handle no more than 3,000 vehicles daily, with the maximum limit set at 4,000 vehicles a day, Padiwetwuthisak Sukkhee, chief of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Highway District Authority, said on Thursday.
Since the highway was blocked by rubber and palm oil farmers, around 30,000 vehicles have been detouring through the 40-km passage each day, exceeding the limit several times over, he said.
Mr Padiwetwuthisak said the massive number of automobiles, and laden trucks in particular, have caused bridges along the route to sag and created pot holes which have been causing accidents.
Highway authorities will close off one lane of the road at a time for emergency repairs, he said.
He added that it will cost roughly 30 million baht to mend the entire route and 20 million baht more to expand the road so that it can handle up to 8,000 vehicles on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, villagers riled by the rubber protesters' highway blockade rallied further south on Thursday afternoon at the Chalerm Prakiat Rama IX Pavillion in Chumphon's Pathio district to voice their discontent.
The group consists of around 300 villagers from three tambons in Pathio - Khao Chai Rat, Don Yang, and Pak Khlong.
Pathio district chief Nakrob Na-Talang and Don Yang police superintendent Pol Col Suchart Nuanparn received the protesters' complaints.
Thanarat Wongtinchat, head of tambon Chai Rat and one of the group's leaders, said the townspeople agreed with the rubber and palm oil growers' motives in wanting better prices for their produce, because the people's well-being was at stake.
However, they objected to the rubber protestors' move to close off the inbound and outbound lanes of the main North-South highway, which has caused severe traffic jams, damaged side roads and caused many car accidents.
More than 3,000 rubber and palm oil farmers from various southern provinces closed Phetkasem Road at kilometre marker 415 in tambon Chang Rak of Bang Saphan Noi district on Sunday afternoon in their campaign for a rubber price hike.
They said the government had ignored their demands that the price of unsmoked rubber sheets be guaranteed at 100 baht/kg and palm oil at six baht/kg.
On Monday, 10 companies of around 1,500 police were deployed to contain the rubber protest amid fears that the rallies by farmers may spread beyond Bang Saphan district.