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Deputy PM wants rural road safety push for Songkran

Jack Burton

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Deputy PM wants rural road safety push for Songkran | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Rescue workers retrieve the victims from the wreckage of a 2018 Songkran road incident - Bangkok Post

With Songkran and its infamous “7 dangerous days” rapidly approaching, the Interior Ministry has asked local authorities and administrations for effective measures to prevent road incidents. Last year, 386 people were killed on Thai roads during the deadly week .

Road incidents kill some 22,000 in Thailand every year, or about 65 deaths a day. But the Songkran festival’s “7 dangerous days” is a big part of the total.

Crashes also cause a high number of serious injuries, with losses amounting to about 10 million baht per case, Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee said yesterday.

“The high toll is largely caused by drunk driving and lack of safety precautions. Thailand has 500,000 kilometres of roads, but 400,000 are in rural areas. So I want more cooperation from local administrations in overseeing local roads, above all barring users who violate traffic laws. This could help cut the death toll significantly. Especially during festivals like Songkran when people celebrate by drinking.”

During Songkran last year the proportion of road accidents caused by drunk driving came in at 36.6%, followed by speeding at 28.3%. In 2018, when 418 died during Songkran, speeding was the primary cause (27.7%).

Across 2019’s “7 dangerous days,” nearly 80% of accidents involved motorcycles. At a little more than 2000 police checkpoints across the country, officers seized 7,282 vehicles and prosecuted a total of 210,883 people, largely for not wearing helmets (55,805) or driving without a license (48,183).

There are two periods each year when local media concentrate their attention on the number of road casualties: “Western” New Year, and Songkran, the Thai New Year. Both are prolonged holidays when the government makes sure everyone gets at least 5 days off, so that people can make family visits to their homes in rural areas.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Songkran

Pattaya announces plans to hold Songkran Festival

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Pattaya announces plans to hold Songkran Festival | The Thaiger

The tourist city of Pattaya is planning to hold Thai New Year, or Songkran Festival, this year as long as they receive the “go ahead” from the government. The Pattaya City Mayor, Sonthaya Khunplume, made the announcement today, saying that the water festival will be held with all the traditional activities including those taking place at temples.

Songkran is the biggest holiday of the year for Thai people and falls on the public holidays from April 10 to 15. Pattaya City officials say they have a plan to celebrate the “Big Day” of Wan Lai on April 19, which will include water fights, as long as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and the Ministry of Public Health approves it.

The event, which is hoped to domestic tourism and the local economy, will feature covid precautions. Mask-wearing and going through screening checkpoints will be part of the safety measures for the event, as well as crowd limits, temperature checks and social distancing.

The Pattaya City mayor has pointed towards the city’s past successes in holding events under the Covid-19 safety measures. Such events included fireworks and music festivals. He went on to assure that holding the Songkran Festival would be successful as well under the Covid safety regulations.

Recently, Pattaya City launched the “Welcome Back Pattaya” campaign to lure domestic tourists back to the city as Covid-19 situation has continually improved. The campaign is aimed towards attracting domestic tourists and is expected to boost the local economy after many businesses in the province were ordered to close last month.

Those businesses were already struggling to survive as many hotels took their featured restaurants to the streets by offering take-away meals and street stalls. Schools, entertainment venues, gyms, pools among others have reopened with travel restrictions, for people entering the province, also having been lifted.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival

Caitlin Ashworth

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Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival | The Thaiger
Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Thailand’s massive water festival Songkran, celebrating the Thai New Year, got the “okay” as long as the festivities are in line with Covid-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people need to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15… So make sure your water gun shoots at a long range.

For long distance water fights, the Super Soaker CPS 2000 is recommended by Wirecutter for the New York Times. They say it’s the most powerful mass-produced water gun in history, shooting at a 15-metre range at nearly a litre per second. The CPS 2000 is around $150 USD, so a more affordable option would be the plunger-style water gun from Steam Machine, which cost around $20 USD. While the Steam Machine water launchers can shoot at a range of up to 21 metres, it needs to be refilled often and is best used near a pool or a barrel of water.

Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand's New Year water festival | News by The Thaiger

Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Allowing Songkran to take place this year is intended to help stimulate the economy which was battered over the past year due to the pandemic. Along with the prime minister, Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome also insisted that disease prevention measures must be strictly maintained, adding that social distancing and capacity limits are “chief” among the measures.

Popular spots for Songkran celebrations, like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, are given the “okay” to hold events, as long as they abide by the rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19. For Khao San Road, famous among foreign backpackers, the festival can give a boost to local businesses and vendors who have been struggling to earn an income due to the lack of tourists, according to president of the Khao San Business Association Sanga Ruangwattanakul.

“We know that it won’t help much as there are still no international tourists, but at least it is a good starting point to reignite business activities on Khao San Road… At the moment, we can only count on the support of local tourists to survive.”

He says 80% of the business activities on the street rely on foreign tourists. Many businesses that rely heavily on tourists, like massage shops and souvenir shops, there are “no customers at all.”

“For pubs and bars, there are just a few customers per night. Out of 500 entrepreneurs on the road, only 50 are still operating.”

Travel restrictions are likely to be eased in time for Songkran, Prayut says, adding that the government is still reviewing the rules for the holiday.

“The government is in the process of considering what can be allowed, whether to permit some activities or all of them. But if the virus spreads, the government might be blamed for it…So I call for your understanding. Easing restrictions is not an easy call to make since the government has to take responsibility for the whole country.”

Director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, Thiravat Hemachudha, said he was concerned with the government’s plan to relax restrictions during the water festival. While the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported a decline in the number of daily coronavirus infections, he says the CCSA did not report on 100 infections at a plant in Samut Sakhon.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wirecutter

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Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry

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Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod

There’s been a traffic jam in, of all places, Trat, as impatient domestic tourists waited for the ferry to head to Koh Chang from the mainland. The island was invaded by Thais getting out of town for the long LONG weekend and, despite the forward bookings, the traffic police and ferry operator weren’t ready for the onslaught.

The long weekend runs from yesterday through to the end of Monday, 2 days public holiday to make up for the postponed Songkran celebrations in April, which were cancelled amidst the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19. Over 10,000 tourists were scheduled to arrive on the island yesterday and today. Cars lined up for more than 3 hours to catch the Ferry from Ao Thmmachat Pier to the pier on Koh Chang. The Khaosod reported that at least 1,000 cars were lined up to get on the ferry at Ao Thammachat that will take them to Koh Chang Island.

Despite being one of the country’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang has remained somewhat off the mass tourism development footprint (Phuket is the largest, Koh Samui second and Koh Chang third). In 2019 the island’s hotel market hosted 1.2 million guests at its 272 tourism establishments that feature 7,617 rooms, with more on the way. Hotel occupancy for Koh Chang teeters between the mid to high 60’s, though the off season sees numbers often drop by half, like other islands around Thailand.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry for new larger hotels in Koh Chang remains the lack of direct airlift and dependence on the privately operated Trat airport, not far from the pier on the mainland. The distance across the channel, between the 2 piers, is about 3 kilometres.

The Koh Chang Deputy Municipal Clerk said that over 10,000 tourists had been waiting to travel the island early yesterday but that 1,000 cars had already crossed over to the island before lunchtime. About 2,000 cars were estimated to have crossed onto Koh Chang in the past 2 days. The cars are expected to wait at least 3 hours just to get back onto a ferry for the ride home.

Mainland police did their best to manage the additional holiday traffic in the area. Police said they received dozens of reports from motorists complaining about the wait to get catch the ferry to Koh Chang with most reporting the wait of 2-3 hours. The piers and related officials will have to find a solution so tourists don’t have to wait so long on holidays. Local residents and Koh Changians think it’s high time for a bridge to be constructed from the mainland to the island so cars can drive directly into the island, just like Phuket.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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