The 13th of April marks the official start to Songkran 2016 but the usual bureaucratic fun and games – if not the water fights themselves – have already begun.
The Songkran public holiday runs from Wednesday 13 April to Friday 15 April, so most Bangkokians have taken advantage of their time off from work to get the hell out of the city and away from the reams of tourists who’re equipped with water blasters and in the mood to party.
It’s estimated that the thrills of Songkran will draw in an additional 2.1 million tourists this year, the majority of which will be Chinese tourists.
But for Bangkok’s natives, Songkran is for spending time with family and friends, usually away from the tourist epicentres of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.
This was Mo Chit Bus Station this weekend, packed to the rafters taking Bangkokians to the great North and Northeast of Thailand, marking the start of the Songkran exodus:
— Stickboy Bangkok (@StickboyBangkok) April 9, 2016
And for those who decided to skip the public bus and make their own way home by car, so began the first rounds of drink-driving arrests for this year’s festival.
1,740 people were arrested and 28 vehicles impounded over the weekend, with 174 people facing confiscation of their driver’s licence, reports the Bangkok Post. The drunk drivers were caught at traffic checkpoints across the country, which are manned by soldiers and police, as well as civilians, in a bid to lower the heightened rate of road accidents usually experienced during Songkran.
A new policy this year is that those convicted of drink-driving will be commanded to undertake public service at hospital morgues, hopefully hammering home the consequences of their misdeeds and instilling in them the need for careful driving.
“They should see the actual physical and mental damage,” said Anurak Amornpetchsathaporn, director of emergency response at the Public Health Bureau.
“In the morgue, they will have to be cleaning up and transporting bodies, so that hopefully they would feel the pain, so that they may understand and attain a good conscience, so that it could be safer on the roads.”
It’s not only drink driving the government are hoping to quash this Songkran; they’re also intending to ban so-called ‘sexy’ outfits from the celebrations too. Lewd dancing is also off the menu.
Sexual harassment is a recurring theme of Songkrans past, and the government are hoping to limit this as much as possible by ensuring revellers conduct themselves more appropriately.
They’re hoping to avoid excess inebriation among revellers too, and so alcohol is banned at 96 Songkran concerts and public sites across the country, according to The Nation.
Will these measures succeed in delivering a more controlled and appropriate Songkran festival? Bring on the rest of the week, we say…
Featured image is by Madeleine_H and used under a Creative Commons licence