While officials dither, parts of Thailand move to limit Songkran

Cancel Songkran? The unthinkable is moving closer to reality in some regions in lieu of any official decision for now.

Culture Minister Itthipol Khunpluem said his department is deliberating “week by week” on whether the major Songkran celebrations it oversees – during a holiday which generates over THB100 billion in revenues – should be canceled nationwide

“We haven’t forced the cancelation of Songkran throughout the country because we depend on weekly updates and orders from the Public Health Ministry and the government,” Itthipol said. “For now we ask each cultural department in each province to consider the appropriateness.”

But while people await a final verdict on this year’s major wet-and-touchy Songkran festivities, some parts of the country are moving to limit activities in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Southeast of Bangkok in the beach town of Bang Saen, Mayor Narongchai Khunpluem of the Saensuk municipality announced that splashing water – a festival mainstay – would be prohibited along with sand pagoda-building on the beach, a traditional Thai New Year’s merit-making ritual.

According to Narongchai, they will also skip Wan Lhai on April 16 and 17, the customary extra days extending Songkran a few days after its end on April 15. 

The new measures are to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, which has claimed at least one life and infected 43, officially. Narongchai’s announcement went down mostly well with netizens. 

“I totally agree! We’ve enjoyed Songkran for a long time already. We need to have a public consciousness and take care of ourselves. Let’s spend time with our families and we’ll pass through this crisis together,” Facebook user Suwapan Suwapong wrote in reply.

In the central province of Phetchabun, which is also feeling the effects of severe drought, Gov. Sueksak Eaimwijan announced today that ritual water pouring on senior officials would be canceled as well.

Sueksak asked the public to refrain as well from pouring water onto family elders, an important part of the festival that usually takes place at home. He said his team has sent letters asking for temples to not sprinkle water onto Buddha images.

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