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Thai police on Pokemon alert amid traffic bottlenecks

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    The Nation

Bangkok   /   Fri, August 12, 2016   /  06:02 am
Thai police on Pokemon alert amid traffic bottlenecks In this July 26, 2016 photo, people play Pokemon Go near the Atomic Bomb Dome at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan. (AP Photo/Kyodo News via AP)

In a bid to prevent road accidents and traffic slowdown, police in Thailand have stepped up enforcement of the ban on use of mobile phones while driving, amid reports that the ongoing “Pokemon Go” craze has worsened Bangkok’s notorious traffic jams.

Meanwhile, an angry father slammed the viral smartphone game Pokemon Go in a Facebook post yesterday, blaming the game for injuries suffered by his daughter in a road accident in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

In Bangkok, traffic police reported that they are closely monitoring the impact of Pokemon Go on the city’s vehicle speed around popular shopping and tourist districts such as the Ratchaprasong intersection and MBK Centre where gamers engrossed in Pokemon Go could have contributed to a traffic slowdown.

According to traffic law, motorists who use mobile phones while driving are subject to a fine of 400-1,000 baht (US$11- 28), as some motorists are reportedly slowing their vehicles at certain places to catch Pokemons for points –one of the game’s features requires players to move no faster than 25 km per hour.

Citing public concerns on potential dangers from this widely popular game, the National Boardcasting and Telecom Commission (NBTC) yesterday urged US-based Niantic Inc, the game developer, to consider removing Pokemons and so-called Pokestops from certain places, including footpaths, railroads, canal banks as well as other places such as temples, pagodas, schools, hospitals, government and military buildings.

The NBTC also urged the developer to restrict availability of the game at night to prevent youth and kids from suffering accidents in public places.

Meanwhile, a secondary school student, referred to as “Tukta”, was riding a motorcycle when she crashed reportedly because she was distracted while watching her friend play Pokemon Go on Monday. She suffered injuries to her arms and legs, and her helmet was damaged. 

Her angry father criticised the game, saying developers had made billions in profits but many people had suffered accidents while playing it and the company did not come to their aid.

Father’s plea

“My daughter is a very clever girl, but she is too obsessed with games. I want to warn everyone that when an accident happens, Pokemon cannot help you. It is your parents who’ll have to rush you to hospital with a broken heart, try to find money for the medical expenses, visit a police station and the insurance company to clarify the situation,” he wrote in his post.

“There are many careless players who cause accidents and create trouble for others, so please play it carefully at the right time and in the right place.”
Tukta’s mother told the media that her family asked to remain anonymous because they did not want to be in the public limelight as her daughter still felt embarrassed and shocked by the accident. 

Tukta has recovered and returned to school.

The accident happened when Tukta was riding her motorcycle to her vocational school in Chiang Mai with a friend, who was playing the game, riding pillion. 

Her friend was excited to get a “rare” Pokemon and showed it to her. As Tukta glanced at the phone screen for a moment, she lost |control and fell from the motorcycle.

Pokemon Go was launched in Thailand on August 8. Its huge popularity has raised concerns of government officials and the public sector, with warnings that the game could cause traffic problems, disrupt student education and even interfere with national security.

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