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Opinion: Lay down the Songkran law

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Though I have a great deal of respect for many of the changes seen in Phuket following the National Council of Peace and Order taking over and the subsequent rule of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, I was disappointed to see the Songkran bans announced with such severity (story here) and then enforced with such lack of impunity (story here).

The bans, though issued with similar flair as last year under a democratically elected government, seem to have authoritarian overtones, and without a doubt go against the grain of how the world sees Thailand and ‘Thainess’. Fundamentally, the Land of Smiles is known to have a carefree attitude that can be a source of childish fun for people of all ages – something that is a struggle to find in western countries. Where in the West is it possible to find grandparents, parents and children joining forces for a neighborhood-wide water-gun fight, let alone one that is nationwide?

The gleaming smiles and gentleness with which some people will smear your face with a mixture of powder and water is charming to say the least. Yes, there will be hooligans and perverts that are too handsy, who will need to be brought under control. However, are these really the types of people who will heed the warnings issued about behaving ‘appropriately’? I think not.

So, who are the warnings for? Are they for Thais? Hooligans? Foreigners? I have no idea at all. Most foreigners will likely go about drinking and being wild because they are in holiday mode. Hooligans by definition have a disregard for law and order. And the polite people, who are truly washing away your sins to bring you a splendid new year, hardly need to be beaten over the head with threats of fines and jail time.

However, if the government feels it necessary to take such a position to reorient the holiday, then measures need to actually be taken – powder and water mixtures and ice blocks should be confiscated, and trucks patrolling play zones should be impounded.

Or, the government should stick with preaching what it is willing to enforce: road safety.

Drunk driving is a real issue – during the Songkran celebrations, with ice water down my back and my cheeks chalky white with blessings, I witnessed drivers drinking beers as they worked their way around town.

The Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign continues to save countless lives, both by forcing would-be drunk drivers to think twice about wobbling onto their motorbikes and by taking action against lawbreakers.

I hope that next year whoever is in power stands on a platform of law that they are willing to enforce.

— Alex Stone

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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