SONGKRAN MEASURES TO CURB DEATHS
Soldiers will be brought in to help enforce traffic laws during the Songkran festival next month, which will again see drunk drivers having their vehicles temporarily impounded, according to defence spokesman…
Thailand’s most celebrated festival is Songkran – the Thai new year. It starts on April 13 and lasts for between three and ten days, depending on where you’re resident (only three days in Phuket). For most, it’s lots of fun and an excuse to cool off at what is usually the hottest time of the year. However, there’s a deeper significance to Songkran which is rooted in Thai history and beliefs. Here’s a bit of background information; perhaps it will enhance your enjoyment of the event.
The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit ‘Sangkranti’, which means ‘to move upwards’ or ‘to be about to change’. On the eve of the festival, Thais spring clean their homes, symbolically expelling any bad luck from the old year and prepare for good fortune in the new. Food and other contributions are offered to the monks at the temple early on the morning of the 13th, after which there are ceremonial prayers. Water is also poured on the ground, or on the roots of an ancient tree, symbolising a blessing to ancestors.
Lt Gen Kongcheep said a Defence Council meeting Monday decided to have military units support provincial road safety centres during the festival. The soldiers will help enforce road rules in order to reduce road accidents during the Songkran period from April 11 to 17. The spokesman said the council meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, also instructed soldiers to set an example by strictly obeying traffic laws.
Like last year’s Songkran festival, authorities will seize vehicles from drivers caught over the legal alcohol limit. The vehicles will be impounded for the duration of the holiday or until the drivers have sobered up, depending on what other traffic offences they may have committed, Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
Drink driving and speeding are the most common causes of fatal road accidents. Statistics show most traffic accidents during the holidays involve motorcycles.
“What the government tries to do each year during festive periods is to prevent or reduce road accidents,” he said, adding the consequences of which can be catastrophic.
The spokesman added that intelligence sources were monitoring security in the lead up to and during Songkran.
Meanwhile, Phuket airport expects a 16% surge in passengers passing through the airport during Songkran. Petch Pancharoen, its director, said the airport estimates it will handle about 56,720 passengers per day on average during the Songkran period. The number represents a 16% increase on last year. Also, the airport is expected to handle 337 flights per day on average, a hike of 15% year on year, with April 15 predicted to be busiest day of the holiday period.
Thais who have moved from their home towns always try to return to their families for Songkran and all forms of transport are booked solid. For this reason you should try to avoid travelling before, during or immediately after the holiday, particularly by bus or train.
In many towns and villages, a Buddha image is carried in a procession through the streets and people sprinkle water upon it, to show their respect. In the southern provinces, village elders are invited to the temple and young people splash water on their heads, signalling their blessings for good health and long life. The elders respond by wishing the young vigour, wealth and happiness. In another delightful custom, Thais visit their elderly relatives bringing them new clothes for the coming year.