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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Return to Thai tradition, saving water the themes for this Songkran

The Kingdom kicked off the three-day Songkran festival yesterday in a more traditional and frugal manner, as saving water appeared to be the main goal of authorities and event organizers.

Revellers during Songkran, billed as the world's biggest water fight, were urged to help conserve water since Thailand is experiencing its worst drought in decades.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Metropolitan Police have banned the sale of high-pressure water guns as they consume more water and pose a safety threat to targeted passers-by. Sellers of such guns risk a maximum prison sentence of six months and fines of up to Bt50,000.

However, many celebrants, most of them foreigners, were still seen carrying such guns in places like Khao San Road and Silom.

People have been urged to use small water guns or even spray bottles to conserve water. In some areas, revellers were given punctured plastic bottles that they can use to squeeze water at others.
Authorities have also geared up to scrub the celebration clean of alcohol, topless dancers and other such "indecencies", by threatening to arrest scantily-clad women and banning the sale of alcohol at raucous street parties in a bid to bring the festival back to its traditional roots.

In response to the government's policy to save water and conserve Thai tradition and culture this Songkran, the Culture Ministry and its allies have organised Songkran celebrations at temples and is inviting people to make merit. Thailand's first cross-country prayer for Songkran will be held at different temples, Culture Minister Weera Rojpojanarat said yesterday. 

He made these comments after presiding over the launch of "Songkran in Temples: Attending Thai-style New Year Prayers and Saving Water" activity at Wat Arun and another event highlighting the worship of nine sacred Buddha images at Wat Pathumwanaram. Weera said the prayer campaign, to run until April 17, has received cooperation from monastic sites and communities nationwide.

In Bangkok, six key temples joined the programme by holding Songkran activities and traditional shows. The temples involved were Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Phra Chettuphon or Wat Pho, Wat Rachathiwat, Wat Pathumwanaram, Wat Prayurawongsawas and Wat Arun.

The Khunnadhamma community at Wat Hongrattanaram also made arrangements for alms offering, water blessing of Buddha images and the making of pagodas from sand, he said, adding that people could call (02) 422 8812 for more information.

Traditional flair was also brought to Mahasarakham Hospital in the Northeast, with doctors and nurses at the emergency unit dressing in traditional attire. They said such clothing did not get in their way, while many visitors welcomed this gesture and asked to take photographs with them.

Many Thais as well as people in neighbouring countries joined merit-making events to usher in the New Year. In Bung Kan's Muang district, provincial governor Pongsak Preechawit led local residents and Laotian people to offer alms to 80 monks yesterday morning. Water-splashing celebrations also were joined by Thais and their neighbours alike, with nearly 10,000 Myanmar citizens from Koh Song crossing the border in Ranong yesterday to join the fun, make merit at local temples and to visit local attractions.

In the Northeast, owner of Buri Ram United football club Newin Chidchob set up a large tent with a sign reading "Morgue" in a move to control chaos-creating drunken youth at the grand Songkran party being held at the i-Mobile Stadium in Buri Ram. 

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