Hat Yai officials go on leave to mount pressure

Eighteen out of 59 officials at Songkhla’s Hat Yai rail station submitted leave letters yesterday, even as the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) management and labour leaders were continuing talks aimed at resuming southern services.

The Hat Yai-Sungai Kolok train was the only local train in service yesterday, as the railway union workers refused to provide services for others, saying all 16 locomotives were in the process of maintenance and repairs.

The SRT labour union’s Hat Yai branch president, Wirun Sakaekum, said the suspension of the service was one of the measures against the SRT executives after they failed to respond to workers’ calls for repairs to at least seven engines.

They were also protesting against two workers being “unfairly” transferred to Bangkok. The transfer of the two workers had affected the morale of the remaining SRT personnel in Hat Yai, he said.

The labour union’s Hat Yai branch committee member, Saroj Rakjan, said the union was also unhappy with SRT’s hasty order to resume services with locomotives that were undergoing repairs, and the agency’s neglect of safety.

Earlier, SRT governor Yutthana Thapcharoen sent SRT deputy head engineer Narongrit Siwasaroj to Hat Yai to inspect repair of the locomotives and speed up work.

While Narongrit was in a meeting with train mechanics, the railway unionists gathered outside the office and continued to call on SRT executives to take responsibility for their failures. They also insisted that the locomotives would be used only if they were deemed in good condition.

Yutthana was also quoted as saying that the SRT management would appoint an investigative committee to probe whether the workers’ work stoppage was a result of malfunction of the locomotives. If not, those who had given the false reports would be punished.

Meanwhile, PM Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he had instructed Transport Minister Sophon Saram to follow the issue closely and work towards resuming the southern train services, as there was no reason for halting them.

Later yesterday, it was reported that Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Thung Song train service had resumed as usual, despite some delays.

The SRT labour union’s Hat Yai branch president, Pattana Saiyawong, said the delays were due to the lack of spare parts, and manpower due to the downsizing of the workforce in 1998. He said SRT had 12,000 officials, when it needed 18,000.

The work stoppage took place only a week after the derailment of a crowded Route 84 Trang-Bangkok train in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district, which killed seven passengers and wounded nearly 90 others.

The Nation

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