A setback on drink driving
The next time the police and government begin a campaign to crack down on drink driving, the country has the right to remain sceptical. This is because authorities have clearly showed they have no intention of enforcing this law. Last week, faced with a great opportunity to show they brook no exceptions to enforcing the drink-driving law, police and prosecutors punted. Once again, a real-world case intruded upon the government's claim that everyone must be treated equally before the law.
The opportunity was presented to police, for a second time, by the ex-actress Anna Hamblaouris, 30, better known by her former stage name Anna Reese. Almost two years ago, shortly after leaving a hard-drinking party, she slammed her luxury car into a parked vehicle, and killed the Suphan Buri police inspector catching a nap by the side of the road in a stationary car. Police who responded and found out who she was didn't test her alcohol blood level. Apparently because they didn't want to inconvenience a celebrity, they let her leave. Police actually made up the excuse they let her go without any crime-scene investigation because she was so upset.
Then came last Sunday night-Monday morning. Ms Anna was among a hard-drinking group at a pub in Huai Khwang district. According to eyewitnesses and the police blotter, sometime after midnight she became extremely agitated, loud and abusive. She got so bad that pub staff called 191 on her. She then left the pub, got into her BMW and tried to drive off. Before police arrived, she smashed her car into a vehicle in the pub parking lot.
This time, she was taken for a drugs test -- results pending -- and asked to blow into a breathalyser. The police say that she tested almost three times over the minimum limit for drink driving. Her scheduled hearing last Monday morning at the District Court of Northern Bangkok was "postponed". Police released her on personal recognisance, meaning she may be required to report back after Huai Khwang police finish their investigation, which they promise to do by June 21 or so.
Ms Anna's case was taken up, negatively, by an activist group, the Don't Drive Drunk Foundation. It is a lobby group whose members include victims of drink drivers. They submitted a petition on the case to the Bangkok police chief, Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, protesting against the decision to give bail to Ms Anna. The petition was received by the Metropolitan Police Bureau's spokesman, Pol Maj Gen Songpol Wattanachai. He told the DDDF delegation he personally disagreed with letting Ms Anna free on bail.
Bail itself, used properly, can be a positive part of the justice system. Unfortunately, so is the power of police to grant it and to "postpone" court hearings where the judges might disagree with such a lenient decision. In any case, whether Ms Anna is temporarily free on bail is a secondary problem. The primary question is why Huai Khwang police have not taken into consideration Ms Anna's previous and extremely serious legal run-in to guide them this time.
The 2015 case resulted in no jail time. A second criminal case involving alcohol is also being treated as if it were an inconvenience to the accused drink-driving hit-and-run suspect.
Officials including city police chief Pol Lt Gen Sanit had a fantastic opportunity to prove they are serious about pursuing those who drink, drive and cause personal and property damage. Instead, it seems police and prosecutors are up to their old tricks, and proving laws are for the little people.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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