It's splashing Songkran fun in Thailand even after country hits 40°C heat; PM Srettha joins in the fun in Hua Hin


Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin enjoying the fun during the Songkran Festival in Hua Hin. - The Nation Thailand/ANN

BANGKOK (Agencies/The Nation Thailand-ANN): It's water festival time in Thailand where many are marking the country's traditional New Year, splashing each other with colorful water guns and buckets in an often raucous celebration that draws thousands of people, even as this year the South-East Asian nation marks record-high temperatures causing concern.

The festival, known as Songkran in Thailand, is a three-day shindig that starts Saturday and informally extends for a whole week, allowing people to travel for family celebrations.

The holiday is also celebrated under different names in neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, which like Thailand have populations that are predominantly Theravada Buddhist.

Songkran is immensely popular - predicted this year to attract more than 500,000 foreign tourists and generate more than 24 billion baht ($655 million) in revenue, according to the state tourism agency.

Past Thai governments have been reluctant to call for dialing down the fun even during crises such as droughts and the pandemic

Though the festival originated as a way to pray for a rainy season that helped crops and included activities such as cleansing images of the Buddha and washing the hands and feet of elders, Songkran these days is now often associated with public drunkenness, sexual assault in the guise of merrymaking, and a spike in traffic fatalities, noticeable to the point that the extended holiday has been dubbed the "seven dangerous days.”

The festival usually falls at the hottest time of the year when temperatures can creep above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

But this year, the unusual heat wave, with expected record temperatures for the next few months, has triggered apprehension. The United Nations Children’s Fund warned Thursday the sweltering weather could put millions of children's lives at risk, asking caregivers to take extra precautions.

Meanwhile, Locals and visitors to the northern province of Chiang Mai on Friday celebrated the Songkran Festival, the Thai traditional new year, by splashing water on one another around the Old Town area in Muang district amid scorching-hot temperatures of nearly 40 degrees Celsius.

Traffic in Chiang Mai Old Town was congested intermittently on Friday because of people engaging in water fights, especially at the Sriphum, Katam, Ku Heuang and Hua Lin intersections.

On the road leading to Tha Phae Gate, Thai and foreign tourists were seen setting up water stations to soak passersby and motorists to help cool down on the hottest month of the year.

The Friday celebration is a predecessor to the official “Songkran Chiang Mai Water Fest 2024”, which was to kick of on Saturday at Tha Phae Gate, a tourism landmark in Muang district.

In another part pf the country, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, donning the red China-rose floral-patterned shirt of the Pheu Thai Party, arrived in Hua Hin along with his daughter and Suriya Juangroongruangkit, the minister of transport, in a pickup-truck taxi to open the Hua Hin Songkran Festival on Saturday.

The event was co-organised by Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and Hua Hin District.

During the festivities, the prime minister enthusiastically joined in splashing water with the crowd and tourists at Phon King Phet Park.

Upon his arrival at the park, he playfully offered his face to the children playing with water and they enjoyed applying powder on him. Citizens and tourists also joyfully splashed water on him.

Later on, Prime Minister Srettha poured water over the Phra Phutthasihing, the important Buddha images of Hua Hin, and over his birthday Buddha. Before pouring water, making a wish, and presenting souvenirs to the elderly, they wished him good health in return.

He then officially commenced the Hua Hin Songkran parade and joined the public in water splashing along Soi Hua Hin 76, in front of the public park leading to the Hua Hin Railway Station.

Throughout the Songkran water festival, Thais and foreigners alike interacted with the prime minister, taking photos, splashing water, and applying powder on him.

The atmosphere at Phon King Phet Park was vibrant and fun-filled. A water tunnel, foam pool, and performance stage were set up for citizens and tourists to enjoy playing with Songkran water, applying powder, and participating in foam parties. - Agencies/The Nation Thailand-ANN

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