Roadside emergency births take place in other countries too. But Bangkok's notorious traffic jams, with expressways and interior roads alike coming to a grinding halt for hours almost every day, have forced city authorities to come up with innovative ways to deal with an unconventional problem - what to do with the increasing number of pregnant women who get stuck on their way to the hospital...
All these vehicles are crammed into Bangkok's inadequate road network. The city has a road surface area that accounts for only 8 per cent of the metropolis, compared to 20-30 per cent in most Western municipalities.
To cope with the problem, a special unit of police midwives was formed under the auspices of the Royal Traffic Police Project, which was set up in 1993 to help people stranded in traffic....
The officers are trained every year at Bangkok Hospital, and also receive training from Honda to drive safely, a critical element of their preparations as they frequently hit speeds of up to 150 km/h when rushing towards an emergency.
Earlier this year, the police delivered their 100th baby, and since then the tally has risen to 107.
What should we see in this? The need for a complete rethinking of police work. At present, police work is mostly about enforcing laws against crimes or solving them. Recall what Marx once wrote:
The criminal produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc.; and all these different lines of business, which form equally many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human spirit, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them.
Put another way, criminals have the police all to themselves. But criminals are a fraction of the urban population, a fraction that's allocated a huge portion of our public human resources. The city has so many other needs, other emergencies beside crimes—which really come down to crimes against property, the policing of which comes down to the maintenance of the dominant economic order, and an economy is only about the manner in which wealth is distributed in a given society, and rarely is that distribution anywhere close to fair (hence the need for enforcement). In short, we need to expand police work into other, non-economic (at least in the direct sense) but still very essential and more common/realistic parts of urban life.