Songkran celebrations, held every April to celebrate the traditional Thai New Year, are usually a time of festival and frolics as communities join in the “sprinkling of water” (read: huge water fights) to ring in the new year.
But according to a new poll, the festivities are not enjoyed by everyone. It found that a huge 51.9 percent of respondents reported they had been sexually harassed during past Songkran celebrations, often by drunk men taking advantage of the occasionally manic nature of the water fights and laissez faire attitude of the revellers.
Online commenters have derided the poll’s results and the survey, carried out by the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, does admittedly have some limitations worth examining.
Millions of people celebrate Songkran every year in Thailand but the poll surveyed just 1,793 people aged between 10 and 40, according to the Bangkok Post, and in just a few provinces: Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Prakan, Chon Buri, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Chumpon, Amnat Charoen and Lampang.
Of course, regardless of whether the poll is representative enough of Thailand at large, it’s clear that there is a problem with predatory opportunists using Songkran as an excuse for sexual harassment. Aside from this particular poll, even anecdotally it’s clear that women are often targeted with groping and other forms of harassment during the holiday.
Happily, most people think that the status quo must be changed and rectified. The majority of survey respondents – 86 percent – thought that Songkran sexual harassment was unacceptable and that steps should be taken to reduce the problem.
Charee Srisawat, speaking for the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, has suggested that safe areas and booths to report incidences of harassment could be set up in high-traffic festival areas, while everyone should look to celebrate Songkran in a respectful way, without resorting to groping or sexual harassment.
The Prime Minister has also promised a tough attitude towards revellers who choose to get drunk, become sexually provocative or sexually harass others, reports The Nation. Yesterday, he confirmed arrests will be made on females (including trans women) performing provocative dances on water trucks during the festival.
“Don’t say this is a festival for fun and this festival is just held for a few days each year. Such actions can cause trouble to others,” he said.
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