Songkran faces ban! Water throwing set to be a crime this year
In a move to reign in Songkran the Thai authorities have finally acted with a swathe of new measures to stop water throwing activities at this year’s upcoming festival.
All “overt” water throwing could now warrant charges for assault with serious dousing cases leading to jail time, heavy fines or both.
The move comes after growing public pressure in recent years to put an end to the drunken revelry at what is often termed the traditional Thai New Year but has become more widely known as “Songkran Water War”.
However, there was good news for traditionalists – sprinkling scented water on Buddhist images and over the hands of respected elders will not be considered a crime, so long as it is done properly and scents used have been purchased from official government outlets.
Meanwhile, it was further announced that should the recommendations be ignored or flouted the festival may be cancelled altogether in subsequent years or possibly incorporated into the Western calendar’s existing New Year. Economic ministry insiders are saying that this will help with productivity in the nation by combining two holidays into one thus giving Thais less days off.
The move has been hailed by road safety activists as well as the tourism sector who suggest that there will be no detrimental impact on tourism as visitors will now spend more money on perfumes for scented water. It was also mentioned that it will help visitors to the kingdom understand and appreciate Thai customs better by limiting the number of young women parading in wet t-shirts.
Announcing the surprise measures at the Ministry of Cultural Traditions yesterday was spokesman Haiyut Karnsa-nam who said: “This water madness has gone on for too long and while the military government had announced that returning happiness to the people was a priority in 2014 it has been taken much too far.
“All overt tossing or splashing of water nationwide will be banned. Obviously people will still be able to splash water in the privacy of their own homes for the purposes of showering”.
He said the ban would apply to all public areas for the period of April 12 to 15 inclusive. It would also be extended in Pattaya as it is widely known they do their own thing though critics felt that police at the resort were unlikely to enforce the ban. Inactive posts are being set up just in case. Thais were further warned that they should refrain from watering the garden during those dates as this might be filmed and shared on social media creating confusion and misunderstanding among the public leading to a possible rise in unnecessary computer crime arrests.
Haiyut also spoke of the legal situation: “When the steering committee was set up to discuss what to do about Songkran we were all agreed that there was no need to waste time and promulgate any new laws”.
The police have more than enough on the statute books to prosecute offenders for common assault or in more serious cases of water tossing, grievous bodily harm, he noted.
“Putting ice into the water could easily warrant a charge of GBH though having powder in the water is a grey area unless it enters the eyes,” he said. “Additionally, using moat water, such as in Chiang Mai, may well constitute an attempted murder charge, as the water is considered hazardous”.
Plans are also underway to set up ESCs (Emergency Songkran Courts) to deal swiftly and effectively with any lawbreakers. Authorities plan to publically torch any water guns that are confiscated.
Government sources said that a massive media exercise centering on Facebook and a poster campaign in Khao San Road are planned to get the message out about this year’s Songkran.
The Bangkok metropolitan police department have chipped in with a promotional YouTube video called “Happy Zone Songkran For U”. They plan to issue smiley face badges to all dry people in the capital during the holidays.
While all water throwing is off limits there will thankfully still be plenty to do for locals and tourists alike. Huge ceremonies are being set up where everyone over 70 will be required to sit in a line to have their fingers sprinkled with jasmine scented water. The government has signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Chinese to supply the huge quantity of perfume required at a favorable discount. One source said they were getting three bottles for the price of two.
Foreign visitors over seventy will have the option to take part though some expressed concerns for their health in sitting out in 43 degree heat all day. In this regard, TAT officials said special health insurance would be available at discounted rates, just in case.
Haiyut added: “We on the committee felt it was too late to cancel the celebrations altogether but I would not rule out that eventuality in 2018. From the original one or two day holiday, Songkran has become an entire week off for many Thais”. While this was acceptable for civil servants, poor factory workers were also downing tools and expecting full pay meaning that the economy was suffering as a result, he commented.
He said that in subsequent years, Thai New Year may be simply incorporated into the celebration at midnight on the 31st of December.
“We are conscious of modernizing Thailand,” he said, “and bringing the kingdom in line with other developed nations may be another great shot in the arm for tourism. Besides, no one will want to throw water in December, it’s just too cold.
He added finally: “Some may think it is sad to abandon our traditions but even in December we will do everything with that special Thai-ness and Thai smile that the world has grown to know and love”.
While the moves to ban water fights were met with surprise by many in Thai society, netizens still consoled themselves with the knowledge that there would now be even greater time to have a local beverage and get totally rat-assed before attempting to drive home.
— Source; Thai Visa News