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When Bad is Good Fortune

By Roy Mark, 30 January 2003

In the early morning hours of Monday the 20th of January, the lifeless body of a motorcycle rider lies on the cold pavement for over an hour after being hit by a speeding car.  That lifeless body was the 18-year-old brother of my driver.

A crowd gathered as it always does at accident scenes in Thailand.  The traffic police arrived, but not before the crowd relieved the dead body of its gold neck chain, a gold ring, and a hand phone.

The cops began their investigation, which always includes spray-painting silhouettes around wrecked motorcycles and dead bodies.  It was a full hour after the 2 A.M. accident when someone in the crowd shouted to the police, hes not dead!  The unconscious boy had moved just enough to draw the attention of the crowd and quite possibly to save his life.

The 18 year old, named Aun, was rushed to a hospital and placed in intensive care.  In the days since the accident, he has undergone one operation to repair a severe compound fracture of his right leg and reconstructive surgery to put his face back in order.  He is now in good condition.  Aun is still in the hospital with his broken jaw wired shut and a steel pin in his leg.

As of today, my driver Ed reports that the medical expenses total 140,000 Baht (about $3,333), a small fortune to the average Thai.  In Thai tradition, or perhaps law, it is the driver of the car that is required to pay all of the expenses of the accident, and the guilty driver in this case is meeting his obligations.  Auns expenses are likely to double before he is released from the hospital, creating a severe financial burden on the car driver.

Ed told me today that had Aun died, the driver would have been obligated to pay the family 100,000 Baht.  I did a double take!  He would have gotten off with a $2,380 obligation for killing the boy, but since Aun refused to die on the pavement, the driver will end up paying five or six thousand dollars.  My only thought was that the driver likely regrets Aun not having died that morning as everyone assumed.  Ed however, explained Thai reality to me.  In Thailand, it is not uncommon for the driver of an errant car to run over motorcyclists a second or even a third time to insure that the cyclist is dead.   Nothing personal, strictly a financial decision.   Ed and his family consider Aun quite fortunate.  They are convinced that had Aun showed any sign of life before the police arrived on the scene, his life would have ended as  the car made a second or third pass over his body.

Ed told me that he was once hit by a car while riding his motorcycle.   The collision destroyed his motorcycle and threw him to the pavement.  Although not badly hurt, hitting the cement knocked him silly.  As he was shaking his head back into full consciousness, he saw the car returning for a second pass.  He scampered to the curb and lived to cycle again.     











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