Authorities in Thailand are urging Songkran revelers to comply with Covid-19 control measures including the ban on splashing water. The authorities worry that water splashing will cause Covid-19 to spiral out of control after the holiday.
According to Thai PBS, Songkran revelers, including foreign tourists, flouted the ban while celebrating the Thai New Year festival on Wednesday.
In an interview on Thursday, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the government and the CCSA seek the cooperation of locals and tourists rather than strictly enforcing the ban.
We hope no one will splash water along Khao San Road and any other public spaces during the long weekend, he said.
While the pandemic persists, Mr. Thanakorn said, the government expresses similar wishes for all other public spaces.
Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as CCSA director, is concerned about the risk of new infection clusters as a consequence of such violations, the spokesman said.
Accordingly, he said the PM also instructed the Interior Ministry and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to ramp up efforts to ensure compliance.
Businesses ordered to warn Songkran revelers
The CCSA is now encouraging business owners on Khao San Road, in particular, to inform tourists in the area that Songkran water play is not permitted. This is part of its disease control measures, he said.
“Young people intending to celebrate the festival should observe their health care and avoid having close contact with children, the elderly, and sick people when they come back home,” he said.
According to Khachit Chatchawanit, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has convened an urgent meeting to address a large number of tourists using water guns on Khao San Road. This is despite the no splashing ban.
Thai News clips showed them using water guns, apparently hardly any fear of being caught, assuming they knew about the ban.
After the meeting, the BMA agreed to ramp up surveillance around the area and ban the sale of alcoholic beverages after 11 pm.
“More than 70 BMA and police officers will be deployed on Khao San Road to improve understanding among visitors about the water splashing ban in the area. In fact, the area isn’t even allowed to host Songkran celebrations,” he said.
Covid-19 safe activities
Only Asiatique and 10 Buddhist temples in the city are designated as Songkran celebration sites this year, which means these venues are allowed to host Covid-19 safe activities from 5 pm until 10 pm during the festival period, he said.
That said, Pol Col Sanong Saengmani, superintendent of Chana Songkhram police, said officers won’t begin to strictly enforce the CCSA’s ban on water play just yet, as many tourists might not be aware of the ban due to insufficient information disseminated about it. However, eight bars on Khao San Road were fined on Wednesday night for exceeding the alcohol selling time of 11 pm, the superintendent said.
Eight checkpoints will be set up on Khao San Road to prevent visitors from bringing water guns and other props which are meant to be used in water fights to the area, while shops along the road have been asked not to sell such toys, said Wasan Bunmeaunwai, director of Phra Nakhon district office.
Stopping people from splashing water
Sanga Ruangwatthanakun, president of the Association of Business Operators on Khao San Road, said stricter implementation of Covid-19 control measures on the famous street and other high-profile locations will only hinder the tourist hotspots’ economic recovery. He insisted foreign tourists pose little risk, as they had already been screened for Covid-19 upon arrival at the airport.
In Chiang Mai, local police said they are ramping up their bid to stop tourists from splashing water at each other while taking part in Songkran celebrations in the northern province. Worawit Chaisawat, deputy governor of Chiang Mai, said the city has been ordered to stop supplying water to a makeshift tunnel with water sprinklers on Chai Si Phum Road, which was set up for tourists.
Despite the ban, a large number of foreign tourists were seen having fun playing with water on Wednesday at the tunnel, as well as the road island opposite Tha Phae gate, he said. The CCSA on Thursday recorded 24,134 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 115 more deaths.