Songkran A Time for Water, Fun And Unfortunately, Road Carnage

Mae Sot children and adults ride pickup trucks engaged in water battles as they circle the town centre. Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border is home to tens of thousands of migrant workers from Burma who also celebrated the Songkran water festival (known in Burma as Thingyan).

Songkran – Thailand’s New Year celebration – is perhaps the country’s most visible holiday. Each year millions of Thais celebrate the New Year (Songkran) by splashing water on each other. In recent years the once gentle celebrations have turned into running water battles on the streets of villages, towns and cities across the country. The seven day celebration also marks the country’s deadliest period on the roads – by Wednesday 15 April, deaths and injuries caused by a deadly combination of driving while under the influence of alcohol pushed the number of people killed to 248 and another 2643 injured.

A study by the University of Michigan released in February 2014 reported that Thailand has the second highest traffic fatality rate worldwide. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Found that Thailand’s had 44 people killed per 100,000 from road accidents, putting it just behind Namibia and ahead of Iran.

Kamonwan, who works in a Mae Sot shop, said she would avoid travelling because of the risk on the roads during the holiday.

“It’s the worst time in the year to travel – it’s very risky – lots of people driving just think of themselves, they drive fast to get home early, and they don’t think about other people. I wouldn’t drive out of the city at this time of the year.”

Pantipa, 27, who works at a family business in the centre of town, said that she would avoid the roads as much as possible during Songkran because of the risks.

“Many people are driving by themselves – there are so many cars on the road at this time of year. If I had the choice I would not travel at all during Songkran.”

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