Thailand’s National Soft Power Development Committee has clarified its plan to hold the Songkran festival for the entire month of April, stating that the water-splashing festivities will still take place on April 13-15 as usual, while other cultural events will be held across the country.
The move comes after widespread criticism that the idea is unrealistic, and that a month-long water splashing event will waste water and increase traffic accidents.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai Party leader and committee chairperson, earlier stated that the committee wished to promote Songkran as one of the world’s top festivals.
”We will not only splash water for three days, but for the entire month, with events held across the country,” she told the Bangkok Post.
According to her Facebook page, the committee anticipates the extended event to produce 35 billion baht for the economy.
Intangible Cultural Heritage
Surapong Suebwonglee, the committee’s vice-chairman, explained that each province usually organizes its own festivities during Songkran.
However, the Songkran Festival has been designated by Unesco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage item, he noted, citing the Ministry of Culture.
On Wednesday, Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage will meet in Botswana.
”As a result, the committee determined that next year’s Songkran event should be co-hosted by all 77 provinces throughout April, rather than held individually. But it’s not a month of water-splashing,” Dr Surapong told the Bangkok Post.
”Water-splashing operations will continue in each province as normal, but we will also organize events to promote the country’s soft power throughout the month.
”For example, water-splashing will take place in Bangkok from April 13 to 15. Following that, further cultural events will be held to promote soft power in various areas throughout the city, including Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Lumpini Park,” he said.
Dr Surapong stated that each province will offer proposals for festivities during the prolonged holiday to the committee this week for consideration.
World Water Festival
Pheu Thai stated on Facebook that plans are in place to turn Songkran into a global event under the theme “World Water Festival — The Songkran Phenomenon,” with festivities to be rolled out gradually throughout April in the hopes of attracting more than 35 million foreign tourists and generating 40 billion baht.
Sutin Klungsang, the Defence Minister, stated on Sunday that if activities are held in all 77 provinces across the country during April, there may not be enough police to ensure order, however soldiers will be on standby to assist if necessary.
Nattavudh Powdthavee, a professor of economics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said on Facebook that the traditional three days of Songkran were enough time to transform the water splashing into something extraordinary, with the brevity of the period meaning that those who don’t like getting drenched could 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 wrote on his Facebook page.
Thailand’s Songkran Festival
Songkran Festival is a traditional Thai New Year’s holiday observed in Thailand and surrounding countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. The celebration, which normally takes place in April, is notable for its water festival feature, in which people participate in water fights and other water-related activities.
The fundamental feature of Songkran is the flinging of water, which represents the washing away of sins and ill luck, as well as the beginning of the new year with a clean slate. People splash water on each other with water pistols, buckets, and even elephants. Songkran includes religious and cultural traditions in addition to the water festivities.
Making merit at temples, paying homage to seniors by pouring fragrant water on their hands, and erecting sand stupas decked with flags and flowers are all traditional Songkran activities. Many people also participate in parades, cultural performances, and other events that highlight Thailand’s rich heritage.
While the water fights are the main attraction, it’s worth noting that the event has deep cultural and religious importance. The water represents purification and the washing away of the previous year’s tragedies, allowing for a new start in the new year. Furthermore, Songkran is a time for family reunions, with people traveling to be with their loved ones and share in the numerous festivals.
Overall, Songkran is a colorful and cheerful holiday that combines traditional practices with loud and exuberant celebrations, providing both locals and tourists with a unique and memorable experience.