Thai Government reverses its plans for Songkran
Three days of water fun is enough, it says
The National Soft Power Development Committee has clarified its idea of staging the Songkran festival for the whole month of April, saying the water-splashing festivities will still be held on April 13-15 as per tradition, while other cultural events will be organised nationwide during the entire month.
The move follows heavy criticism that the idea is impractical and a month-long water splashing event would be a huge waste of water and increase road accidents.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai Party leader and chairwoman of the committee, previously said the committee had wanted to promote Songkran to become one of the world’s best festivals.
”We will not splash water only for three days but the whole month with events to be held nationwide,” she said.
The committee expects the extended festival to generate 35 billion baht for the economy, she wrote on her Facebook page.
Surapong Suebwonglee, the committee’s vice-chairman, said that during Songkran, each province normally organises its own activities separately.
But the Songkran festival will now be listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage item by Unesco, he said, quoting the Ministry of Culture.
The official announcement will be made at Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee meeting for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Botswana on Wednesday.
”Therefore, the committee agreed that next year’s Songkran festival should be co-hosted by all 77 provinces throughout the month of April, rather than being held separately. But it is not about water-splashing the whole month,” Dr Surapong told the Bangkok Post.
”Water-splashing activities in each province will still be held in their usual tradition, but throughout the whole month we will also organise events to promote the country’s soft power.
”For example, water-splashing will take place on April 13-15 in Bangkok. Afterwards, other cultural events will be organised to promote soft power in various locations in the capital such as on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, and Lumpini Park,” he said.
Each province will present ideas for events during the extended holiday for consideration by the committee this week, Dr Surapong said.
Pheu Thai explained on its Facebook account that plans are in place to transform Songkran into a global event under the theme “World Water Festival — The Songkran Phenomenon”, with festivities to be rolled out gradually during April in the expectation of attracting more than 35 million foreign tourists and generating some 40 billion baht.
Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang said on Sunday that if activities are to be held in all 77 provinces nationwide throughout April, there may not be enough police to keep order, though soldiers would be on stand-by to assist if necessary.
On his Facebook, Nattavudh Powdthavee, a professor of economics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the traditional three days of Songkran was time enough to transform the water splashing into something extraordinary, with the brevity of the period meaning that those who don’t like getting drenched can still tolerate it.
“If we make every single day of April a Songkran festival day, its value will diminish and people will be bored,” he posted.