Push for drink-free Songkran

Push for drink-free Songkran

Ministry urges revelers stay sober

A group of students pose for photos with powder in their hands ready to smear it on the faces of revellers on Khao San Road last year. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
A group of students pose for photos with powder in their hands ready to smear it on the faces of revellers on Khao San Road last year. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

The Ministry of Public Health and health advocacy groups are calling for the upcoming Songkran to be celebrated with zero alcohol for the sake of public safety.

They insist that the festival, taking place April 13-16, will be safer for all without alcohol and that the water-splashing fun should not involve getting drunk.

A recent survey conducted by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) showed that 88% of foreign tourists would be happy if alcohol were banned at the Songkran celebrations.

Also, 75% of respondents, including foreign nationals, expressed their support for an alcohol-free Songkran initiative, said Dr Pairoj Sanuam, deputy manager of ThaiHealth. The opinion poll surveyed 939 Thai and 400 foreign respondents across 18 provinces.

Up to 90% of respondents believe Songkran celebration venues where the sale of alcohol and drinking are banned could help improve public safety in general, while 89% think banning alcohol will curb accidents linked to alcohol consumption, Dr Pairoj said.

In addition, 89% say an alcohol ban at Songkran celebrations will reduce alcohol-fueled violence, while 85% believe the ban will reduce sex-related crimes as well, he said.

"From our experience working to promote alcohol-free Songkran for more than 15 years, the Songkran water splashing zones where alcohol is banned proved to be safer for revellers and attract more tourists," he said.

However, Wisanu Srithawong, president of the Social Power Network Foundation, noted that close to 1,000 Songkran water-splashing events nationwide in the past were held without alcohol.

In light of Unesco's listing of Songkran as a world cultural heritage item, the Public Health Ministry is encouraging provinces to organise alcohol-free celebration zones this year, said Dr Niphon Chinanonwet, director of the ministry's alcoholic beverages control committee.

The Immigration Bureau, meanwhile, said it will deploy more immigration officers to deal with an expected rise in foreign arrivals at Suvarnabhumi and Phuket airports.

Passengers departing and arriving at the airports are estimated to rise to around 120,000 people per day, with at least 25 flights taking off and landing per hour during the Songkran holiday period.

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