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Bangkok’s Safety Awakening: Harsher Sentence for Policeman After Doctor’s Tragic Zebra Crossing Death

Imagine strolling through the bustling streets of Bangkok, the vivid cityscape pulsating with life. Now, picture those same city streets with a new addition—a series of conspicuously marked pedestrian crossings, a beacon of safety amidst the urban flurry. These crossings stand as a poignant reminder of a tragic event that reverberated through the heart of the Thai capital: the untimely passing of a young and promising doctor in Phaya Thai district in early 2022.

The loss of Dr. Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, who succumbed to her injuries after being struck by a motorcycle while navigating a zebra crossing, served as a wake-up call. Her story catalyzed a seismic shift in pedestrian safety measures, transforming once-overlooked crossings into vivid symbols of caution designed to shield city walkers from a fate similar to Dr. Waraluck’s.

Fast forward to a Wednesday that would echo through the marble hallways of justice, as echoes of the preceding year’s sorrow were met with the gavel’s decisive blow. The Court of Appeal weighed the scales and found wanting the original verdict delivered upon Pol L/Cpl Norawich Buadok—the junior policeman whose motorcycle bore down on Dr. Waraluck as she crossed the iconic Phaya Thai Road. The consequence: an increased sentence, from a fleeting one year and 15 days to a more consequential five years and one month behind bars.

Indeed, the court adjudged the original sentence as inadequately light, considering the gravity of the officer’s actions. At the heart of their ruling lay the grim facts: a potent cocktail of reckless driving, an unlicensed and uninsured bike, and the absence of a crucial licence plate—the harbingers of an impending doom that unraveled at the zebra crossing that day.

In an unexpected legal twist, the saga first saw Pol L/Cpl Norawich hearing his fate pronounced by the Criminal Court—two years and 30 days of incarceration accompanied by a fine. Yet upon his confession, mercy was exhibited in the form of reduced sentencing, a glimpse of leniency amid the tragedy. Out on bail, he poised himself, preparing an appeal with hopes of evading the prison’s looming shadow. Meanwhile, the prosecution, alongside Dr. Waraluck’s bereft family, clamored for the hand of justice to wield a firmer grip.

The appellate saga unfurled its chapters swiftly: a startling ten years prescribed for the reckless driving, an additional two-months’ garnish for the haste of speeding—all halved upon the turning of the legal tides. Amidst it all, the steadfast Criminal Court’s decree—a 4,000-baht fine—stood unaltered.

Pol L/Cpl Norawich then cast his bail plea into the judicial ethers, with 300,000 baht proffered as surety, only to watch as it drifted to the Supreme Court’s higher echelons for deliberation. Now, the officer finds himself ensconced within the Bangkok Remand Prison’s confines, a limbo as he awaits a decision with bated breath.

As this chapter in Bangkok’s history unfurls, the city’s pedestrians now traverse with a tad more assurance, their steps falling on crossings that embody both a memorial and a warning. They press on, under the watchful eye of a society now all too aware of the fragility of life, and the steadfast resolve to hold it dear amidst the urban sprawl.

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