Chiang Mai locals and tourists defy Loy Krathong lantern ban, allegedly cause fire at market

Photo: Pexels.
Photo: Pexels.

They just didn’t listen.

Despite the government’s stern warning, some people in Chiang Mai couldn’t resist the urge to light up the sky with lanterns on Monday evening, as part of the Loy Krathong Festival celebrations. But their festive mood was soon dampened by a fire that broke out at a nearby market, possibly caused by the flying fire hazards.

Loy Krathong is a traditional Thai festival that falls on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month, which was Nov. 27 this year. People float decorated baskets or “krathong” on water to pay respect to the water goddess and wash away their sins. In some parts of the country, especially the north, people also launch lanterns into the air to make a wish.

That is despite of a strict ban on any sky lanterns, rockets, fireworks, and firecrackers, with authorities citing the risk of fire and air traffic disruption. Anyone who violated the ban could face up to THB800,000 in fines, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty, according to the 2019 Air Navigation Act and the 2015 Certain Offences Against Air Navigation Act.

That didn’t stop some defiant souls in Chiang Mai, the northern tourist hub, from releasing lanterns from the Tha Phae Gate and Nawarat Bridge, where the main Loy Krathong events were held. The Nation reported that vendors were selling lanterns for THB50 each to Thais and THB100 to foreigners.

Around 3am on Tuesday, a fire erupted at a commercial building in Waroros Market, not far from the Tha Phae Gate. The blaze damaged three out of nine units of the three-storey building, including a construction material shop that stored flammable paint thinner. Reports have also emerged that renowned non-alcoholic bar Intangible was among those damaged.

The damage from the fire was estimated at more than THB10 million.

Twenty firetrucks and over 50 firefighters rushed to the scene to put out the fire. No casualties were reported, but the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Officials suspect that it might have been sparked by a sky lantern that landed on the building.

While the festival is undoubtedly a beautiful spectacle, it also poses a serious threat to the environment and public safety. The hundreds of thousands of floats and lanterns that are released into the water and air create a massive amount of waste and pollution, as well as potential fire hazards and air traffic disruptions.

This year in Bangkok, the government promoted a digital alternative to releasing floats into the city’s waterways.



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