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BANGKOK – Several convicted drunken drivers were brought to a Bangkok morgue Monday to see a corpse and reflect on the gory consequences of their actions as part of a program aimed at combating the carnage on Thailand's roads.
Thailand has the world's second-worst record for traffic fatalities, according to the World Health Organization, just behind Libya. Most of the road accidents are caused by drunken driving.
The morgue campaign was first introduced in April during Thailand's traditional New Year holiday, known as Songkran. The holiday puts thousands of people on the road, as Thais return to their home villages for reunions and celebrations, typically fueled by alcohol. The government has dubbed the seven-day holiday — during which an estimated 2.3 people die and 160 are injured in road accidents every hour — "The Seven Days of Danger."
The Department of Probation, which set up the program, said that since April, more than 1,700 drunken drivers have been taken to dozens of morgues nationwide.
"In the past, we have tried campaigns, but the statistics were not going down. So why not try other activities? What kind of activity would create more shock and worry?" said Prasarn Mahaleetrakul, deputy director of the Department of Probation. "So we came up with this project. Drunken driving — you get sent to the morgue."
Media were invited to a photo-op on Monday, when the program came to Bangkok for the first time.
Inside the morgue at Bangkok's Taksin Hospital, four convicted drunken drivers were handed rags to first wipe down the stainless steel gurneys where corpses are laid and then gathered around a body, covered by a white sheet with feet and hands hanging out.
With TV cameras pointed at them, the four men stood somberly as they stared at the body.
"We see the dead body and it makes us afraid," said one of the men, whose name could not be used for privacy reasons. He said it made him feel sorry for the person and also fearful for his own safety.
"If an accident happens, I could be lying there," he said.
As part of the program, convicted drunken drivers are put on probation and have to complete from 12 to 48 hours of community service, including attending lectures and working at a hospital morgue or hospital emergency room to avoid serving jail time.
Prasarn said he believes that the morgue shock treatment plan could be more effective than past community service activities, where convicted drunken drivers were made to paint traffic signs and help the elderly.
Thailand's government says 11,370 people died in road accidents in 2015, but that number is based only on accidents reported to insurance companies. The WHO said an estimated 24,237 people died in road accidents in 2013.
Most accidents in Thailand are caused by motorcyclists and many people drive without insurance.