Thailand's water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead

T.PApr 16, 2024 at 15:21

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In Thailand, every April, people across the country, armed with plastic guns and buckets of water, participate in a battle that lasts for hours from morning to night. According to Thai officials, in the first 3 days of the festival, 116 people died and 968 were injured.

Bangkok Post published a report from the Thai Department of Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation recording that from April 11 to April 13, the three peak days of the Songkran holiday. According to Mr. Withaya Yamuang, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Transport in Thailand, there were 116 deaths, 968 injuries and 936 road traffic accidents during the water festival. The most common causes of accidents are drunk driving and speeding in crowded places.

Thailands water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead - Photo 1

On the weekend of April 13 alone (the main day of Songkran), the whole country had 392 accidents, of which 411 people were injured and 48 people died. Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkhla cities had the highest number of accidents with 39 each, Songkhla had the highest number of injuries with 45. Bangkok tops the list of deaths with 8 recorded cases.

Among them, driving vehicles at excessive speed caused 157 accidents, and the number of casualties due to alcohol use was 109 cases. Statistics show that motorbikes cause the most accidents with 342 (accounting for 85.5%), the rest are pickup trucks and passenger cars. The time period with the highest accident rate is from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The age group with the highest number of injuries and deaths is 30-39 years old.

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The Songkran water festival takes place every April and is a traditional holiday of Thailand and is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. This year, more than 120,000 tourists from many countries came to Thailand to participate in this festival, according to data from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

In 2023, UNESCO added Songkran to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, marking the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year festival. "Water splashing is an important action during Songkran, symbolizing purification, reverence and good fortune. Other activities include bathing important Buddha statues, splashing water on family and friends, and plays folklore, games, music and feasting.", UNESCO wrote.

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It's the water f.ight that has turned Songkran into a global phenomenon in recent decades, with huge water fights held on closed city streets everywhere from Khao San Road and Silom Road in Bangkok to Chiang Mai's historic Old City.

Head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Ms. Thapanee Kiatphaibool, said revenue from the Songkran holiday lasting from April 11-15 is estimated to increase by 49% over the same period last year.

Thailands water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead - Photo 4

The Thai government has spent 130 million baht (3.6 million USD) for relevant ministries and branches to coordinate and promote the organization of this Festival in all provinces and cities across the country. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said this year's Songkran festival is expected to help the country earn 24.4 billion baht (700 million USD) during the 5-day holiday, attracting more than 500,000 foreign tourists. abroad and nearly 4.3 million domestic trips.

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Mr. Pipad Krajaejun, history lecturer at Thammasat University in Bangkok, told CNN: "According to many elders, water fights have taken place in many places in Thailand for the past 60-70 years. At that time , everyone in the village played water splashes with each other, and everyone knew each other and were related. Unlike today's battles, which involved thousands of revelers and high-powered water guns. "

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has released a list of celebrations taking place across the country, but for those looking to get into the cultural scene, Bangkok is becoming a top destination for interested travelers. to the Songkran Festival this year.

The inaugural Maha Songkran World Water Festival 2024 will take place from April 11 to 15 in the city's ancient historic center, around Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue and Sanam Luang, near famous sites such as the Palace Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The highlight of this year's festival is the Maha Songkran parade, which takes place on April 11 from Phan Fa Lilat bridge, ending at Sanam Luang. There are about 20 large processions with more than 1,000 participants. At Sanam Luang, a large area in front of the Royal Palace, cultural and musical performances will take place throughout the festival.

Thailands water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead - Photo 6

Since water fights take place on streets and outdoor spaces across the country, visitors won't have any problems participating. Water guns are sold everywhere during Songkran, and street vendors often set up shop near famous water fighting areas.

Thailands water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead - Photo 7

However, the way authorities organize this year's festival is creating a lot of confusion for both residents and tourists. Specifically, according to the plan announced by the government in February, the Songkran festival will take place in major tourist centers such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya, lasting from April 1 to 21, different from compared to previous years when it was only held on April 13-15.

In addition, this announcement omitted some important information, including specific locations and event times at each location.

Thailands water festival rakes in millions of dollars but leaves more than 100 people dead - Photo 8

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