BANGKOK, April 13 – Thai New Year revellers started the Songkran water splashing festival with making merit in a morning alms-giving ceremony and the water fights began nationwide to mark the Thai New Year in the sweltering hot weather.
In Bangkok, Sukumol Khunplome, the minister of culture, presided over the opening of the Songkran festival at Siam Square to promote wearing the Thai style loincloth.
Clean tap water is available for residents and tourists alike to fill their water guns and buckets, while an old-style market is set up in the city centre to promote traditional Thai celebrations of the New Year.
Near historic Bangkok’s Sanam Luang and the picturesque riverside, backpacker haven Khao San Road is a centrally highlighted venue for Bangkok’s water splashing during the Songkran festival. Thais and foreigners alike were armed with water guns Friday morning to battle in the water fight, and the road is expected to get crowded as normally seen during the Thai New Year.
Up north in Chiang Mai, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra opened the Songkran festival in her hometown, joining the public in giving alms to 99 monks.
She addressed the public, advising all to do good deeds and to promote the unique tradition of the northern style water festival and cultural tourism to attract tourists as Thailand’s tourism is showing a good sign of recovery from past troubles.
She wished all Thais happiness and in good health in this coming year.
In the far South, in Pattani, the Songkran water festival kicked off amid heightened security.
Governor Theera Minthasak ordered provincial officials to examine all suspicious cars and motorcycles at checkpoints to prevent the recurrence of violence, particularly at the checkpoint in Nong Chik district, connecting Songkla’s Hat Yai district, where Lee Gardens Plaza was hit by a car bomb only last month.
In Yala, locals gave alms to over 100 monks in the municipality to make merit for those killed in the March 31 car bombings.
In Narathiwat, people travelled on pick-up trucks, loaded with water-filled plastic barrels to splash others. In the Narathiwat municipality, a road filled with entertainment venues was closed to traffic to allow the celebrants to enjoy splashing water while in Sungai Kolok, bordering Malaysia, both Thai and Malaysian tourists are participating in water fighting.
The long holiday, which runs until April 17, normally has a large number of highway deaths from accidents mainly involving driving while intoxicated and speeding across the country. The authorities are trying to cut the casualty toll every year by campaigning to set up road checkpoints.
During the first two days of Songkran’s ‘seven dangerous days’, the records showed 88 people died and 890 others were injured in road accidents.