Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Songkran / 송끄란

The Thai New Year water festival, Songkran, is upon us again. Happy New Year (for the third time for many of you out there)!

The streets are full of people, young to middle-aged, all hell-bent on drenching every passer-by in cold water. In theory it's meant as a blessing for the year to come. That may have been the original concept, but that's not how things work now.

I know, it's quite hot outside so I should be grateful. But some of us want to do things, and walking almost any street will get you wet. What's the use of soaking someone who doesn't want to be soaked? Which idiot decided that huge tanks of water by the roadsides would be a good idea? *hmm*

Last year I had a lovely experience (hear the sarcasm?) when I took a tuk-tuk for central Siam, instead of risking a dousing on the pavements, only to have a full bucket of water thrown into my lap while stopped at traffic lights. And it's impossible to dry out fully before someone else pours a bowlful of water down your back with a vacantly malicious look in their eyes. Being so wet gets surprisingly cold when you visit an air-conditioned shop or Internet cafe or coffee shop.

I've noticed that, with the above-mentioned water tanks, even bus passengers aren't safe.

This is also the worst time of year for fatal traffic accidents in Thailand. Most of these involve motorcycles and not wearing the obligatory helmets. If the police would only do their job and enforce the law (or make the fines so high that no-one would risk not wearing one), ...

This was on the front page of the Bangkok Post this morning:

Male gropers top list of women's worries

For many women, terrorists pose less of a fright than opportunistic males who grope and grab in the guise of celebrating Songkran festival, according to a public opinion poll.

A recent Assumption University poll showed 42.8% of respondents were most worried about physical sexual harassment during Songkran festivities. Another 34.6% cited possible terrorist attacks as their main concern and the remaining 22.6% said they had no worries at all.

The survey was conducted among more than 2,800 women aged 15-24 in 23 provinces between March 15 and April 11. Of the respondents, 11.53% had suffered physical sexual harassment during previous Songkran fun fests. However, 82.6% of them said they did not complain to the police.

Of the 17.4% who filed complaints, only 8.9% said police could arrest their assailants. Almost 30% said police rejected their complaints, claiming such harassment was "normal" during Songkran. Fourteen percent of the women surveyed said police not only rejected their complaints but added to the hurt by passing sarcastic comments.
Sounds like Japanese subways.

On the up-side, the streets are even more colourful with bright, flowery shirts, street stalls showcasing local crafts, dancers and musicians performing on three stages around the park,... and neon water guns of all sizes.

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