Revellers flout splash ban
Water fights persist amid infection fears
The government is urging full compliance with Covid-19 control measures outlined by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), including the ban on water-splashing during the Songkran holidays, to help prevent cases from spiralling out of control after the long break.
The plea followed reports of Songkran revellers, foreign tourists in particular, getting caught flouting the ban while celebrating the Thai New Year festival on Wednesday.
"The government and the CCSA would like to ask for the full cooperation of locals and tourists instead of strictly enforcing the ban as we do not want to ruin the festive spirit," said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Thursday.
"We hope to not see anyone splashing water along Khao San Road and any other public spaces [over the long weekend].
Mr Thanakorn said the government expressed similar wishes for all other public spaces while the pandemic persists.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as director of the CCSA, is concerned about the risk of new infection clusters as a result of such violations, the spokesman added.
As such, he said the PM also asked the Interior Ministry and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to ramp up their efforts to ensure compliance.
Business operators on Khao San Road in particular are now being urged to tell tourists in the area that Songkran water play is not allowed as part of the CCSA's disease control measures, he said.
"Those who are going to celebrate the festival, especially young people, are advised to carefully observe their health and avoid having close contact with children, elderly people and sick people when they come back home," he said.
Separately, city clerk Khachit Chatchawanit said the BMA convened an urgent meeting over the large number of tourists playing with water on Khao San Road despite the ban. News clips showed them shooting water guns, apparently having little 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 11pm.
"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.
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 5pm until 10pm 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 11pm, 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.
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.