Thais soak in new year with nationwide water fight - Times LIVE
Wed May 24 23:31:55 SAST 2017

Thais soak in new year with nationwide water fight

AFP | 2017-04-14 11:19:32.0
Local residents and tourists take part in waterfights during the annual Thai New Year celebration Songkran water festival on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand
Local residents and tourists take part in waterfights during the annual Thai New Year celebration Songkran water festival on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand, April 13, 2017.REUTERS/Toby Melville
Image by: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS

Hordes of revellers armed with plastic water guns poured onto Thai streets on Friday for a second day of watery warfare to ring in the kingdom's traditional new year.

Known as Songkran, the Thai holiday is celebrated by paying respect to elders and sprinkling water over Buddha figures at local temples.

But the festival has also become one of the world's biggest - and booziest - water fights.

Every April rowdy street parties erupt across the nation as hundreds of thousands of Thais and tourists don floral shirts and drench each other with brightly-coloured water pistols.

Similar but smaller water festivals are also held in neighbouring Buddhist countries like Myanmar and Laos.

The burst of colour was especially striking this year in Bangkok, where many Thais have worn only black and white for the past six months to mourn the October death of the deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

"At its peak I think there were hundreds of thousands of people in Silom," city official Vallop Suwandee told AFP, referring to a downtown Bangkok district that has become a Songkran hotspot.

"Overall the situation is orderly," he added.

Many see the soggy celebration as a fun-filled respite from the sweltering heat that engulfs Thailand during its hot and dry season.

But the military junta that came to power in 2014 has tried -- mostly in vain -- to rein in the revelry with bans on skimpy clothing and restrictions on alcohol.

The generals have also struggled to curb drink driving, which surges during the holiday week, earning it a reputation as Thailand's "Seven Deadly Days".

Authorities reported 167 road deaths over the first three days of this year's festival -- a toll only marginally lower than the 181 deaths recorded over the same period last April.

The number of road accidents was also up slightly, according to the Interior Ministry, with nearly half of the crashes involving drunk drivers.

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