Thai Teenager Nong Than’s Court Case Goes to Trial in Singapore

Nong Than and father during her recuperation in hospital after the accident.

Thai teenager Nitcharee Peneakchanasak, otherwise known in Thailand as Nong Than, will be back in Singapore this week.

This time for a court case that’s expected to last at least three weeks. During it, Nong Than and her family will be explaining to a judge why they think Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) are responsible for an accident that caused the teenager to lose both her legs.

Nitcharee was only 15 years old last year when she was sent by her family for a one-month intensive English course in Singapore. Many Thai teenagers every year are sent to study in these courses as they offer an extremely high level of English study not always available in Thailand.

Not long after she arrived, Nong Than fell from the platform of the SMRT in Singapore and onto the tracks. An oncoming train amputated one of her legs. The other had to be removed in surgery a few days later.

Nong Than and her family have always alleged the SMRT and LTA are responsible as Nong Than did not fall from the platform. In fact, she was standing safely behind the yellow lines when she was pushed. They say CCTV shows the incident happening.

The Peneakchanasak family are suing the SMRT and the LTA for 3.4 million Singapore dollars, which is around 85.5 million baht or about US$2.79 million.

If they win, they plan to pay for Nong Than’s prosthetic legs — which she’ll need around 20 pairs of over her lifetime and at huge expense. The family is worried they won’t be able to afford them if they lose the case.

The SMRT and LTA, on the other hand, say the fault lies entirely with Nong Than and originally offered a paltry $4,000 payout.

Weirdly, in several Asian countries, even though platforms to trains are high and potentially very dangerous, no barriers are placed to prevent passengers from falling off them.

In Bangkok on the BTS sky train it is currently the same. BTS platforms too are often over crowded with far more people on the platform than should be allowed, yet there is no barrier to stop passengers from falling or being accidentally, or deliberately, pushed.

The MRT underground train, on the other hand, has a very safe system with no way to access the tracks at all.

In Malaysia too, if you take the monorail every station has barriers up so it would be difficult to fall from the platform accidentally.

If Malaysia provides these types of safety barriers, why does Singapore, an even more developed country, not? Nor Thailand either, for that matter?

Of course, it seems to us Nong Than has a good chance of winning her lawsuit, no matter what the SMRT and LTA say. After all, if the platform was overcrowded, that is surely the fault of the SMRT.

If Nong Than was pushed, barriers would have prevented her terrible accident. The lack of them is also the fault of the SMRT.

As for Thailand, why hasn’t the tragedy that has happened to one Thai teenager overseas motivated the BTS sky train to put up barriers at their own stations since then?