It takes much more than human error to cause a subway accident

News

I have been working in mass transit for years. This kind of accident cannot be considered purely a human error. Blaming the subway crash on the driver and operators will not prevent accidents like this from happening again. If this were the case, we would have to find people who have never made any errors in their lives to operate mass-transit systems. Blaming people is misleading.

That’s why many mass-transit systems use the automatic train protection (ATP) system to eliminate the risk of human error. This has been normal practice in this industry for years. The question is, where is the ATP for our subway? Why did our subway’s system not work as it should have, by which I mean stopping trains that are moving towards each other? Who is the designer of the system, and who approved its use?

I hope The Nation will pursue this thing. Don’t let mistakes fall solely on the small group of poor people who operate trains for a living.

Nick

BANGKOK

Stricter standards for public transportation

The subway accident was just a single incident within a system that has been operating for months. What most people worry about are the normal, everyday accidents involving cars, big trucks and buses.

We wonder why the Transport Ministry does not require people who apply to work as drivers of commercial or public vehicles to obtain a certificate to operate specific vehicles from a vocational or community college. Training courses for those people are very important.

The ministry should seek cooperation from these institutions. I believe this would decrease the number of accidents.

Vichian Sattayatham

BANGKOK

The Democrats have created their own troubles

Katha’s justification of the poor leadership abilities of the Democrats [“The Democrats never had it as good as the TRT does”, Letters, January 21] was somewhat odd. She said that the Democrats could not govern well because they lacked a majority of seats in Parliament while TRT currently commands such a majority.

My question is simple: whose fault was it? It was their own for not achieving their goal. You need an upstart like Khun Thaksin and his colleagues to show you how. Within a short time frame the TRT has made it to the top. The leader has been Machiavellian and very effective at achieving changes in thought and in practice. He not only works hard but also intelligently, though whether or not his methods are ethical is still being debated. By my accounting – and not through his propaganda machine – to date more changes have been made under the TRT than by any past government in which the Democrats have been associated, starting from the time of Khun Kuang Aphaiwongse. Thaksin has also laid down a good foundation for a lot of good things to come.

I venture to guess that the day Khun Banyat was elected as the Democrat’s leader over Khun Abhisit must have been a good one for Khun Thaksin. Only people like Khun Abhisit or Khun Tarrin or a few newcomers like Khun Korn could be considered an alternative leader to Khun Thaksin. Now it is too late. Whose fault is it that the Democrats have never secured a majority? I fear the party that I have admired since my youth may have come to the end of the line.

However, because my local TRT candidate had the audacity to put up posters of herself shaking hands with [Japanese Prime Minister] Koizumi, with or without the consent of the Japanese government, I will have to vote for the Democrat candidate. I and my family considered the poster to be an insult to the electorate, just like the old practice of a shop-owner prominently displaying pictures of himself standing next to an army or police General. I hope this candidate fails, but that the TRT win the majority votes to govern.

Songdej Praditsmanont

BANGKOK

Thaksin is simply doing what politicians do best

Re: “Thai Talk: How poverty became the PM’s political ally”, Opinion, January 20.

In exposing the PM’s political shrewdness, isn’t Suthichai Yoon simply criticising a politician for being a politician? A politician, one definition goes, is “one who makes a profession or a game of politics” (Learner’s English). Most elected governments make short-term policies based on pledges that have become plans. For a developing country, the issue of poverty is not an uncommon one. It’s a long-term issue which requires long-term plans and, for voters, immediate results. Surely, when dissecting the PM’s polemical rallying tactics, Mr Suthichai doesn’t believe that the PM was masking his political aspiration with the issue of poverty? Surely, Mr Suthichai doesn’t believe that all gullible voters, me included, will vote for the TRT because of their plans to eradicate poverty within the year?

Why doesn’t Mr Suthichai leave the PM’s personal aspirations aside and focus on his performance as head of a government? And for many naive persons, me included, could Mr Suthichai enlighten us with his view of the TRT’s performance during its government term?

Viroj Limsakdakul

BANGKOK

Rice’s Burma stance will raise tough questions

Condoleezza Rice in her Senate confirmation hearings ranked Burma second on her list of “outposts of tyranny”. Unlike Secretary of State Colin Powell, who delegated responsibility for Burma to Assistant Secretary James Kelley, Cuba and Burma will be the leading foreign-policy goals of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Burma being ranked as one of the leading “outposts of tyranny” has important foreign-policy implications:

1) Asean will be bluntly asked why it has not supported the Burmese democracy movement. Have they no shame that they would even appoint the military dictators of Burma as the Asean chairman next year?

2) American troops are defending Korea’s freedom. Why is Daewoo, a company that went bankrupt and is now controlled by the Korean government’s bail-out agency, busting American sanctions by making oil and gas investments in Burma? America’s defence of freedom in Korea requires that Korea support America’s defence of freedom in Burma.

3) Why is Burma not on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council? Why has UN envoy Razali Ismail ignored Aung San Suu Kyi’s request for UN investigation of the May 30th massacre?

Dr David Steinberg, the leading apologist of the Burmese military regime, alleged a few years ago that Burma ranked low as a foreign-policy goal and that it ranked only higher than Laos in Asia in the State Department’s foreign-policy goals. Even General Than Shwe remarked that he is not worried because Burma is not listed among the top enemies of America.

General Than Shwe now has plenty to worry about, because Burma is now one of the leading enemies of America.

Myint Thein, senior adviser to the Burmese Resistance

UNITED STATES

Post-tsunami plans should have a long-term outlook

The entire world has watched and admired the Thai response to the tragic tsunami and its aftermath in the south of Thailand. In typical Thai fashion, their massive reaction to the tsunami was immediate and unselfish.

Unfortunately, Thailand’s preparation for future natural hazards has also been “reactive”. To paraphrase Mr Thaksin’s statement, the horse is out of the barn, but we still need to close the barn door (or build a new one). This reaction will included a multinational effort to build and maintain an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system. This will provide an early warning when the occurrence of a large submarine earthquake suggests the potential for a tsunami.

This is only half of the solution. The Thai government and local scientists must carefully study the country’s coastlines and map regional “tsunami hazard zones” throughout the country. These will be the zones that must be evacuated following the issuance of a tsunami warning.

Such a study needs to be completed very soon, before the scars from the recent tsunami have disappeared. Such tsunami hazard zones can then be used to develop local evacuation plans and procedures, development planning (such as prohibiting hospitals or schools in these zones) and for enactment of appropriate building codes within these zones. The biggest challenge will be to keep this system maintained and keep the coastal population educated over the long time periods between devastating tsunamis. Unfortunately, a society’s memory of such events is frustratingly short.

The December 26 tsunami also provides an opportunity for the government to become proactive on Thailand’s other more likely geological hazards. Tsunamis are exceedingly rare events. Southern Thailand probably experiences a lethal tsunami only (on average) once every several hundred years. The odds of one occurring in a given year is probably 1 in 300 or more, long odds, but much shorter than the odds of winning a lottery jackpot! How often does Thailand experience loss of property and lives from floods or landslides? Although earthquakes centred within Thailand are rare, very preliminary scientific studies suggests that moderate to large earthquakes are a possibility, especially in the north and west of Thailand.

Given the lenient (or lack of) building codes in Thailand, even a moderate earthquake (magnitude 6 or less) could result in massive loss of life and property. Given the new awareness of geological hazards in Thailand, the government should institute a nationwide mapping project to identify, locate and assess the flood, landslide and earthquake hazards. A set of nationwide hazard maps could provide important data for future development and for the development of appropriate zoning laws and building codes. The relatively modest cost of such a comprehensive study will pay for itself many times over with reduced casualties and property damage when (not if) the next natural disasters hits Thailand.

I hope that in its rush to point fingers and implement new warning systems Thailand doesn’t forget these smaller but potentially lethal and much more common natural hazards. Yes, close the barn door even though the horses are gone, but also build additional structures to contain all of Thailand’s geological hazards.

Dr Brady P Rhodes, associate professor, California State University, Fullerton

UNITED STATES

Published on January 23, 2005

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