Searching for justice

Searching for justice

Horror crash case revived 9 years later

"I don't know whether I will be alive to see the end of this case." — Thawin Chaothieng, 71-year-old mother of victim Sardsatra Chaothieng. (Photo by Saichon Srinuanchan)

The case of Orachorn "Praewa" Thephasadin na Ayudhya, who killed nine people and injured four others in a crash on a tollway in 2010, has reignited again after affected parties told the media about their ordeals over nine years of court battles.

An interview with relatives of the victims killed in the crash that aired on a news talk programme on Thairath TV on Monday has sparked public outrage.

The relatives said they had not received a single baht of compensation from Orachorn over the past nine years. The clip has gone viral.

On Dec 27 2010, Orachorn drove her car into the rear of a passenger van carrying students and staff of Thammasat University's Rangsit campus travelling on the Don Muang Tollway.

Orachorn was 16 at the time and not eligible to hold a licence.

In 2011, she was charged with driving without a licence, reckless driving causing death and injuries, property damage, and using a mobile phone while driving.

She was sentenced to three years in prison, which was later suspended.

She was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service annually for four years as a condition of her release.

According to a Supreme Court document, Orachorn used her new name Rawinbhirom Arunvongse.

Affected parties sued her. On May 8, the Supreme Court ordered Orachorn to pay 26 million baht to the surviving victims and families of the dead victims. The case involved 28 plaintiffs.

The compensation ranges from 4,000 baht to 1.8 million baht per case, according to Thammasat University Law Centre, which is monitoring the case closely.

Following the Thairath TV programme, injured victim Waranyoo Kedchu wrote on his Twitter account "@tintinwaranyoo" that he is still waiting for 400,000 baht in compensation.

He also posted court orders related to the case.

He revealed that he was a third-year student at Thammasat University travelling in the van at the time of the accident.

He claimed the lawyer representing Orachorn challenged him to pursue the 400,000 baht compensation in a bankruptcy case and offered him a financial settlement of less than 400,000 baht. He did not receive any money.

"The lawyer bargained with me to reduce the money as much as possible. It is as if he was bargaining over the price of fish or vegetables in a fresh market," he wrote.

The Bangkok Post tried to contact the lawyer reportedly representing Orachorn, without success.

Thawin Chaothieng, the 71-year-old mother of Sardsatra Chaothieng, a scientist who died in the accident, said she feared she might die before receiving compensation.

Her son, a PhD graduate, worked at the National Science and Technology Development Agency.

To help make ends meet without her son's income, Mrs Thawin, now living in Ratchaburi province, has had to make garlands to sell.

She begged Orachorn to show some compassion.

"If she refuses to pay compensation, we need to go through another lengthy process to trace her assets. I don't know whether I will be alive to see the end of this case," Mrs Thawin.

Meanwhile, new Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin has ordered officials to help the 28 plaintiffs as the culprit has yet to pay compensation, according to Thawatchai Thaikheo, the justice deputy permanent secretary.

Mr Thawatchai quoted the minister telling officials to use money from the justice fund for helping impoverished plaintiffs if they need to trace the assets of Orachorn.

Meanwhile, Gen Vitch Thephasadin na Ayudhya, a former member of the National Council for Peace and Order asked public not to generalise.

"This case is an individual one. It is unfair if society vilifies her family name," said Gen Vitch.

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