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Despite crackdowns, riders continue to use Bangkok's footpaths

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Read the following story by Supoj Wancharoen from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

A video clip of a Japanese woman blocking motorcycles from riding on the pavement has once again reminded society about the state of Thailand's shared public spaces.


On Thursday last week, footage of Megumi Morimoto -- a 55-year-old senior student at Kasetsart University in Sakhon Nakhon -- blocking motorcycles from riding on the pavement went viral.

"I've been doing this for over five years because as a pedestrian, I don't feel safe walking in Bangkok," she told the Manager, a local news site. "Motorcycle riders hijack the city's pavements at the expense of pedestrians. They don't know that they're endangering others, nor do they care that they are damaging public property."

Over the past five years, Ms Morimoto said she has blocked more than 100 drivers from riding on the pavement. She has also been attacked at least four times.

"I would urge [the riders] to obey the law, but believe it or not, some of them don't even know the traffic law," Ms Morimoto said. "They would kick and hit me, but I always fight back -- I know [martial art] Aikido."


Not only does Ms Morimoto's campaign show how the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) efforts have failed to stop people from riding on the city's pavements, it also shows how Thailand still has a problem with law enforcement. Shortly after the video went viral, the BMA immediately ordered local police to arrest motorcycle taxi riders who were parked on footpaths in Bang Kapi.

"After we ordered officials to monitor the situation, we moved in to arrest scores of motorcycle taxi riders," deputy Bangkok governor, Sakoltee Phattiyakul told the Bangkok Post. In the 14-month period since the fine was first increased, the BMA managed to arrest and fine 21,755 riders -- making some 12.59 million baht for the city's coffers. Despite the fines collected, the deputy governor admitted the problem is far from solved.

"We can still see motorcycles riding on the pavement despite the fines," said Mr Sakoltee. "Our officials should be working harder."


A police source, who asked not to be named, said the traffic police would often ask BMA officials to turn a blind eye to 500 motorcycle taxi stands which occupy pavements across Bangkok's 50 districts.

"Many of these riders set up their queues and parking spaces on the road, but they were asked by the police to move their stands onto the pavement," the source said.

The laws are rarely enforced due to manpower shortages. However, Mr Sakoltee admitted, the attitude of officers on the ground also determine the campaign's success.

"Police officers have let offenders off the hook because they believe the 2,000-baht fine is too high," said the deputy governor. "I told them I can understand their compassion, but it is time for us to get tough."

Urai Phewnuan, a motorcycle taxi rider in Chatuchak district, asked for some understanding.

"We don't want to ride on the pavement, and we prefer to ride at normal speeds on normal roads," he said. "However, many of our passengers are office workers who aren't shy to press us to ride on the pavement to save time."

Despite its limited success, the BMA's campaign has been welcomed by Bangkok's pedestrians.

But many remain doubtful of its chances in succeeding in driving motorcycles off the pavement.

Office worker Thanchanok Kulima said fair law enforcement is key to the campaign's success.

"These riders would even sound their horns to force pedestrians to make way for them, as if the pavement is their own," he said. "These irresponsible riders are giving all of the other riders a bad reputation."

Section 1: Read through the story and answer the following questions. 

1. Ms. Morimoto is a citizen of which country? …………….

2. How long has Ms. Morimoto been blocking pavements? …………….

3. She blocks the pavements because she doesn’t feel safe. True or false? …………….

4. Ms. Morimoto is not afraid to fight back. True or false? …………….

5. How long did it take the BMA to collect 12.59 million baht? …………….

6. How many motorcycle taxi stands are there on Bangkok’s pavements? …………….

7. Who thinks the 2,000 baht fine is too high? …………….

8. Motorcycle taxis are told to ride on the pavements by many of their passengers. True or false? …………….

Section 2: Match the phrase with its correct meaning

9. at the expense of a: to ignore a problem

10. believe it or not b: in the place where work is done

11. turn a blind eye c: escape punishment

12. on the ground d: surprising but true

13. off the hook e: with loss or damage to something

Section 3: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.

In July …14… year, the BMA …15… the fine for riding on the pavement from 500 baht to 1,000 baht, after many public complaints and reports of accidents as motorcyclists …16… into people on the footpaths. …17… a year, the BMA decided the fine was not enough. As a result, …18… decided in August this year to double the fine again to 2,000 baht. BMA also said offenders who fail to pay their fines in time will have their vehicles …19….

14. a. next b. last    c. previous

15. a. double b. doubled c. doubling

16. a. ran b. run c. running

17. a. During b. After c. Before

18. a. he b. they c. it

19. a. stolen b. seized c. given

Section 4: Find words that match the following definitions.

20. sets or groups of 20 ……………

21. workers doing a particular job ……………

22. a strong feeling of sympathy for people ……………

23. afraid of doing something …………

24. not thinking enough about the effects of what they do……………

Answers: 1. Japan. 2. Over five years. 3. True.  4. True.  5. 14 months.  6. 500.   7. Police officers. 8. True.  9. e. 10. d. 11. a.  12. b. 13. c. 14. b. 15. b. 16. a. 17. b. 18. c. 19. b. 20. scores. 21. manpower. 22. compassion.   23. shy.   24. irresponsible.

SCORE: 21-24: Excellent! 17-20: Good.   13-16: Fair.   12 or fewer: You'll do better next time!


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