The Minister of Culture, Itthiphol Khunplume, briefly spoke with the press this afternoon, March 9th, 2021, to discuss guidelines for the upcoming Songkran festival in April in Thailand.
The festival, which is also the Thai new year, and the biggest annual holiday for Thai people, falls from April 10th to April 15th this year, although some areas (like Pattaya) will hold events on different days to boost domestic tourism. Pattaya, for instance, will be having its annual Wan Lai festival on April 19th, 2021.
The Minister (who is also the former Pattaya Mayor and brother of current Mayor Sonthaya Khunplume) stated that the final guidelines would be decided upon and released next Monday, March 15th, at a major meeting between relevant agencies.
He said that the emphasis would be on traditional activities, like bathing religious objects in scented water, processions of monks, giving respect to parents and the elderly, and similar items.
However, he also stated that he was aware Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Samui amongst others were planning Songkran events that would likely include water play and other “entertainment” activities and stated that guidelines were being developed on how this could be done safely without potentially spreading Covid-19 from possible asymptomatic carriers.
The Tourism Ministry, as well as tourism-centric destinations, are well aware it seems that a pure “traditional” Songkran is unlikely to drive as much revenue or tourism as one that includes water play, concerts, drinking, and other activities.
There was discussion, according to the Culture Minister, of having strict “water-play” zones with Covid-19 check-in measures in the areas that were planning to have a festival (including Pattaya) and requiring face shields, goggles, and raincoats for those who were planning to play. It’s important to note that these are all guidelines and proposals and unlikely to be “laws” as enforcement would be difficult, according to the Minister of Culture.
The overall plan for Songkran would be to ensure that any “large crowd” events were controlled and every measure was made to stop congestion or “traffic jams” of large numbers of people.
The final guidelines are expected next week, although the Minister of Culture stated that areas, where events were planned, were already working closely with relevant agencies on how to pull off the event safely and strike a careful balance between fun and tradition.