CHACHOENGSAO — The collision between a tour and a cargo train that left at least 19 people dead in Chachoengsao on Sunday ignited yet another cycle of safety discussion – and blame games – but some mainstream media are telling their readers that paranormal activities must have been involved.
Although investigators said the deadliest road accident in months was most likely due to the bus driver’s inattention, much of the media airtime was dedicated to an “unlucky number” found close to the railway, amulets worn by the survivors, premonition dreams, and other superstitious claims.
“Viewers, look. There is the number 13 on the pillar,” a news anchor for Thairath TV said in a segment on the accident. “According to ancient Thai beliefs this is an unlucky number, because sideways, it spells phee [ghost].”
The channel also interviewed an anonymous local about the number 13, who said that car accidents were common in the area and that some local teenagers may have graffitied the number.
Ironically, fear of the number 13 is not even a traditional Thai belief – while Thai superstitions tend to revolve around numbers, aversion to 13 is strictly a Western import.
“Villagers say the abandoned train station is unlucky – nearby number 13 column,” screams the headline on the screen.
Commander of Chachoengsao provincial police Col. Tarathep Tupanich said by phone that the Khlong Kwaeng Klan station, where the accident happened, is rarely-used and not staffed. Some officials believe a lack of warning system and barriers might have contributed to the collision.
Thairath TV also reported what magic amulets the survivors had been wearing during the accident, such as Netapha Jattra, who had a Luang Pho Phutta Sothorn amulet in her bag.
“I don’t know who gave this to me,” Netapha said, showing the small amulet to the camera. “But I have it in my bad for tod kathin today.”
Other media sites like Kapook, Nation TV, and TNews published similar articles that purported to link amulets to chance of surviving the accident, like the story of 38-year-old survivor Nittaya Saengphakdi.
Nittaya, a survivor in the crash who had been dancing in the bus just before the crash, told the media the Luang Por Ruay monk amulet protected her from death.
“Miraculous escape from death,” reads the headline by TNews. “Luang Por Ruay miracle! A wealth-bringing, lucky coin from 2017.”
The bus, carrying 65 people, was on its way to Wat Bang Pla Nak in Chachoengsao for a tod kathin merit-making ceremony. The bus had both Thai and Burmese workers from a plastic water bottle factory in Samrong, Samut Prakan.
Not all of the media coverage resorted to peddling superstition. Reports published by Manager Online and Kapook also highlight the danger of “illegal crossings,” or railway crossings built by local communities without permission, and whether poor rail crossing signals might have contributed to the crash.