GRIK: The Thai community is looking forward to Songkran, or water festival, becoming a national celebration next year.
Siam Association of Malaysia president Senator Siw Chuan Eam said it was to have been on the national tourism calendar this year but they did not have ample time to organise the event.
Hopefully, we will be able to organise the national-level event next year.
But we have yet to decide where the event will be held, she told reporters after the launch of the Perak state-level Songkran festival by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Tajol Rosli Ghazali at Kampung Tasek in Pengkalan Huku, near here, yesterday.
Last year, the then Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said the Songkran festival, held annually on April 13, would be included as a national tourism event.
It is a New Year festival for the Siamese community and usually celebrated for a month, said Siw.
She added that she had received requests from residents in southern Thailand for the event to be also celebrated in Malaysia.
Our people are not keen to cross the border, but our neighbours in southern Thailand are keen to celebrate the event here, she said.
When the celebration started, thousands of revellers began spraying and sprinkling scented water and talcum powder on each other.
The crowd were treated to traditional dances and a beauty contest, which was won by 18-year-old Ie Tho Prakthip Suwan from Kampung Tasek, Pengkalan Hulu.
Tajol Rosli told the gathering that activities carried out during the festival could attract more tourists to the border towns.
He advised local residents to take part in tourism-related activities, such as craft-making and preparing local foodstuff, which could be carried out jointly with their Thai counterparts.
Tajol Rosli told reporters later that a free trade zone was being developed at Pengkalan Hulu for industries dealing in auto parts and textiles.
He said workers employed at the proposed site, irrespective ofwhether they were Malaysians or Thais need not use passports to visit there.
It will be a free trade and a free passport zone, he added.