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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 22:31 GMT 23:31 UK
Thailand acts on holiday road deaths
Thai New Year celebrations
Officials blame slippery streets for the high death toll
By the BBC's Jane Warr

The Thai government is considering cutting short the country's main holiday to reduce the number of traffic accidents and discourage Thais from going abroad.

A record 709 people were killed during this year's five-day Thai New Year festival - more than four deaths every hour.

Government officials said the death toll was mainly due to drunken driving, particularly by motorcyclists.

Thai new year celebrations
Celebrations are becoming wilder
Thais mark the festival by throwing water over each other, and the resulting slippery road surfaces has compounded the problem.

Over the past few years, the celebrations have become increasingly out of hand, with the gentle sprinkling of water being replaced by raucous water fights.

Poor record

However, Thailand has a very poor record on road accidents all year round, with a death toll double that of the United States.

Rural road
Most deaths occurred in the rural north-east
As well as the violence, the Thai government is concerned that the five day holiday encourages people to go abroad, leading to a drain on foreign reserves.

This year 52,000 people travelled overseas compared with 43,000 in the same period last year.

Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra said he would like to see the New Year holiday reduced to four days.

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See also:

03 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Hundreds of holiday deaths in Thailand
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