In Pictures: Thailand's emergency volunteers

Due to a large population and strained emergency services, Bangkok must rely on volunteers as first responders.


Unlike many countries, Thailand sends out volunteer teams to traffic accidents or crime scenes before sending fully equipped ambulances. Emergency calls are answered by registered volunteers with the Erawan Medical Centre. 

With a population of more than eight million, Bangkok's medical system must rely on volunteers. These volunteers, on average, provide basic life support services in about 65 percent of the emergency cases that occur during the year. One of the most common emergencies involve automobiles - more than 12,000 people die in road accidents in Thailand every year.

In addition to the Erawan Medical Centre, the Ruamkatanyu Foundation, a private organisation, uses a volunteer to support the capital's underdeveloped emergency services. It is one of the two largest free rescue services for accident victims in Bangkok. While the foundation relies on private donations, volunteers sometimes have to use their own money to buy vehicles, gas, uniforms and medical equipment.

Volunteers are also not allowed to accept money, neither from hospitals nor from victims. The volunteers Al Jazeera talked to say they do this job because of their passion for helping people or as a way to earn extra karma for their next incarnation. 

Approxamately 20 to 30 volunteers report for duty daily for the Ruamkatanyu Foundation. These numbers double or even triple during Thailand's traditional New Year, where a spike in traffic-related accidents occur. The Road Safety Directing Centre reported 277 deaths and 2,926 injuries in 2,754 road accidents nationwide in the first six days of the festival, beginning on April 11.