Water festival fun falters

BANGKOK, 12 April 2021: Songkran Festival a national holiday in Thailand, but being a Buddhist New Year festival, it is also celebrated albeit under different names across mainland Southeast Asia.

In Laos, it is known as Pi Mai, Myanmar, Thingyan and Cambodia, Choul Chnam Thmey; all nations sharing the same Buddhist heritage and a love for soaking friends to cool down during the height of the hot season. 

Traditional merit-making at temples and water sprinkling ceremonies to bless family elders followed by the fun of street water battles that usually continue for three days from sunrise to sunset.

Songkran, derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Samkranti’ is a traditional Buddhist festival marking the traditional New Year famed for water throwing and the mass migration of urban residents who travel overland to visit their homes and relatives throughout rural Thailand.

The holiday commences today, Monday 12 April and runs through to Friday 16 April. It was extended from three to five days wedged between two weekends to give Thais a nine-day break, mainly to encourage domestic travel and revive the economy.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Thailand is now suffering a damaging and dangerous Covid-12 third wave as the more infectious UK variant of the virus ran amok in Bangkok and spread to more than 20 provinces.

Instead of encouraging Thais to travel and explore resorts across the country, the government is warning citizens to be vigilant and practise social distancing while cancelling all festival activities and reducing the water throwing to a minimum.  It also ordered entertainment venues in 41 provinces to close for 14 days starting this weekend. Measures to slow Covid-19 infections put a damper on holiday plans while resorts will suffer yet another round of losses. Most of the blame for the economic losses will be placed at the doors of posh nightclubs and bars in Bangkok’s Thonglor district that cater to Thailand’s wealthy elite who enjoy late-night partying and disregard social distancing and other safety requirements without a care in the world. Their actions triggered a devastating Covid-19 third wave that now leaves the country’s health service struggling to find hospital beds to treat the sudden influx of cases. It’s a major setback for Thailand just weeks before it planned to relax quarantine rules in the lead-up to opening Phuket to vaccinated international travellers in July.

TTR Weekly’s daily alerts emailed every business day Monday to Friday will resume after the holiday break on 19 April.