Burma Refugees Play Down Songkran Celebrations

During this year’s Songkran (water festival) celebrations Thailand again witnessed carnage on the road. Road deaths and injuries caused by a deadly combination of driving while under the influence of alcohol pushed the number of people killed to by Wednesday 15 April to 248 and injuries to 2643.

The New Year celebrations saw people killed on the roads in both Thailand and Burma, authorities in both countries blamed the deadly combination of people driving while drunk. Refugees from Burma living in camps along the Thai Burma border said Songkran celebrations were quiet.

Saw Kyaw Eh from Umphiem refugee camp described what Songkran was like at his camp.

“This year was a bit more discipline than previous years, not many people played water on the road – only children. Throwing water only happened in some [camp] sections.”

Saw Kyaw Eh said that safety and security was a high priority.

“Camp officials warned to play safe in order to avoid street fights due to drinking [alcohol] and throwing water at people without their permission. Last year, there were also warnings, but less people complied with the regulations and there were lots of conflicts and fighting broke out. So far, I haven’t seen or heard about any fighting this year.”

Umphiem Refugee Camp was not the only camp that residents decided to play safe with water throwing. In Mae La, the largest refugee camp along the Thai Burma border, less people joined in the water throwing.

Naw Ei Cho, a Mae La camp resident from Zone B described to Karen News what residents in her section did for for Songkran.

“I wanted people to throw water at me but no one in my neighborhood played water. It was not like previous years where my close neighborhoods played loud music and threw water for the whole day.”

Naw Ei Cho said that camp officials announced warnings to residents from loud speakers time.

“The announcement from loud speakers warns people not to drink and cause trouble to other people and not to throw water at people who are on their way to work or who don’t want water to be thrown at them.”

Naw Ei Cho said security measures during Songkran was high at the camp.

“There were security officers going around and making sure the situation was calm. Where there were issues, they got to the place right away. There was a fight in my neighborhood, but the security officers came and calm them down.”

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