Songkran, the festival of fun and frolic in the water will be quite dry and dull this year with bans on key elements of the festival by the government. We can understand the ban of overuse of water, but for some reason, “This Songkran won’t have women or ladyboys dressing inappropriately and dancing on a truck. They’ll be arrested, as well as the truck drivers.”

The traditionally Buddhist festival of Songkran has come a long way from its humble origins. The festival originally involved locals visiting temples to pour water on Buddhist statues as a symbol of purification and the washing away of sins and bad luck. This has over the years evolved into a huge tourist attraction with public celebrations involving water gun fights, getting drunk and several days of dance parties.

This creates a problem as Thailand is currently facing its worst drought in decades. Though the government initially called for voluntary restraint, its effectiveness was questionable with the festival being a major tourist attraction. This has led the government to implement measures and bans to curb excessive use of water, consumption of alcohol and displays of flesh.

Celebrations in Bangkok have been cut short, in particular at Khao San Road and Silom. Besides having the number of days reduced. they are also supposed to end at 9 PM instead of midnight. The city government has also announced a stop on free water distribution centres and public consumption of alcohol. The main Silom celebration will now feature a cultural parade instead of the loud dance parties.


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In a statement, Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the prime minister and junta leader, said “This Songkran won’t have women or ladyboys dressing inappropriately and dancing on a truck. They’ll be arrested, as well as the truck drivers.” These absurd comments were apparently an attempt to prevent displays of “sexuality” by Thai locals which would in turn encourage foreigners to behave in the same way. “Don’t do anything that make farangs [foreigners] think they can do anything. They come here for Thainess. Please don’t do anything that shames the country and please do conserve water.”

In Chiang Mai, the governor has also announced a ban on “X-Ray pants” which turn translucent when wet, “sexy dance moves” and “sexy muscles”. The ruling party has also banned red plastic water bowls, meant to be used during the festivities, bearing a Songkran message from Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed prime minister which are considered seditious. More than 10,000 such bowls have been seized with a threat to send politicians to newly established “attitude adjustment” camps if they try to distribute such items ahead of the holiday.
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Though certain actions by the government to prevent water wastage are laudable, their overly conservative approach to the festivities in addition to their derogatory comments about transvestites and prostitutes are questionable. Placing a ban on freedoms of the public is definitely not the answer nor is it conducive to an atmosphere of general public happiness. These bans are an almost haunting mirroring of the several bans imposed in India infringing on various rights.

What is your take on this? Let us know!