At a glance, the collapse of a section of road near Soi Sukhumvit 64/1 on Wednesday that nearly swallowed up a loaded lorry could be just another accident beyond anyone's control. But at a closer look, the mishap, which is the second of its type in less than a week, could have something to do with long-standing bribery issues in the transport sector.
Public suspicion over bribery's connection to the mishap surged after social media users spotted a big star-shaped sticker on the top of the lorry's windscreen, rekindling not-so-distant memories of "bribe stickers" brought to light by Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn in June.
The stickers, which come in various shapes and colours, work like a ticket that helps illegally overloaded trucks pass weight checkpoints. Such overweight trucks are blamed for poor road conditions, which compromise public safety while adding to the cost of road repairs each year.
Shortly after the scandalous stickers were revealed, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) launched a probe that resulted in some 40 officers, both at commissioned and non-commissioned levels, facing disciplinary action and a transfer to inactive positions.
Just a few weeks after the probe, a party hosted by a mafia kamnan in Nakhon Pathom province for a group of police officers turned into tragedy when one officer was shot dead after he turned down a "request" from the host. Given that the late officer was chief of a highway police unit, there was speculation that his death had something to do with this flawed system, as the influential kamnan operated a truck business, and controversial truck stickers could not be ruled out. The RTP still owes the public explanation about this case and any connections.
But it's not a secret that there is little faith in any RTP probes, and the recent incident on Sukhumvit Road is a reminder for many that kickbacks are probably still the norm in the transport sector.
Initially, it was found that the lorry in question on Wednesday carried some 45 tonnes of soil, almost 100% more than the legal weight for this type of vehicle. The truck's records showed on other occasions, it had carried up to 61 tonnes of soil.
Meanwhile, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt has refused to blame the incident on bribery and has suggested that poor road construction played a part in what occurred.
But Apichart Prairungruang, chairman of the Land Transport Federation of Thailand, has admitted that such stickers are still around, further fuelling speculation over the stickers seen on the truck.
Given this, a new approach is needed to root out this problem, or it will continue undermining road safety.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration does not have direct authority over the issue, but Mr Chadchart wants the BMA to get involved by sending city officials out to do more site checks and borrow scales from the Highways Department to weigh trucks. Commendable, but more cooperation between the state agencies must be encouraged.
Earlier, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) proposed a set of measures to then-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to assist state agencies in better dealing with such instances of bribery.
Those proposals should be taken on board by the current government and translated into action. Those found wrong should be punished so as to set an example.