THEY are the statistics that should have us all reeling: 3271 people injured, 397 killed and 110,909 arrested ... in a matter of just six days.
And all of the carnage and chaos is happening during what’s meant to be the happiest time of the year, an occasion so popular that it attracts half a million visitors annually over the space of a few days. Yes, the scene of the horror is Thai New Year, also known as Songkran.
Sadly the event, famous for its wild street parties and water fights, is also known as the ‘Seven Days of Danger’. This year has proven to be the deadliest yet — and there’s still one more day to go.
The death rate has jumped 30 per cent from 364 during the same period last year, with drunk and reckless motorists mainly to blame. There has been a staggering 3104 road accidents so far, with 5772 vehicles impounded at road safety checkpoints and 16,346 drivers licences seized from drunk drivers.
Revellers douse each other with water during the Songkran "water" festival.Source:AP
And it turns out these figures could actually become much higher, with the Bangkok Postreporting that official numbers on road accidents have been wildly conflicting: “While the Road Safety Directing Centre of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reported 3271 injuries in the highway crashes, Dr Pranom Khamthiang, deputy permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry, said 25,516 people injured in road crashes had received treatment at public hospitals during the Songkran period.
“These included 3815 (who) were seriously hurt.”
Wrap your head around that for a moment: 25,516 people hurt. In six days. It’s just staggering.
Each year hundreds of people die in traffic accidents during Songkran.Source:AAP
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that there are reports that sales of coffins across the nation have jumped.
“We have sold four to five coffins a day during the Songkran period, from the usual one or two per day,” shop owner Thanyaporn sae Lao told local newspaper The Nation.
But where is the outrage over the senseless loss of life? Tourists are seemingly undeterred by the carnage, with the celebrations a huge cash cow for Thailand, expected to generate more than 15 billion baht ($557 million) for the tourism sector this year.
A soldier has his face covered with paint during celebrations of Songkran.Source:AFP
And all of this comes despite some drastic measures taken by authorities this year in a bid to make the celebrations safer:
1. DRUNK AND RECKLESS DRIVERS SENT TO WORK IN MORGUES
With thousands on the roads during the festivities, authorities decided to go gory in an attempt to reduce the amount of risky behaviour by motorists. Last week they announced that traffic offenders will by sent to work in hospital morgues to see the results of their irresponsible acts.
Casual attitudes toward road safety give Thailand the second worst record in the world for traffic fatalities.
2. CRIMINALS ROUNDED UP
In an attempt to curb crime during the festival, police arrested 20,172 criminal suspects wanted under 42,915 arrest warrants around the country from April 1-10. They were mainly arrested for theft, drug offences, assault, fraud and embezzlement.
Deputy national police chief Winai Thongsong told the Bangkok Post: “Police arrests of suspects in crimes against people and property will help prevent these people doing it again during the Songkran Festival, and reduce the amount of drugs in major urban areas.”
Unfortunately, it seems to have had little impact.
3. ‘NO MORE SEXY OUTFITS’
Revellers who wear clothing deemed “too sexy” are banned from 40 water-playing areas, and alcohol is banned at 96 public sites nationwide in a bid to crack down on lewd behaviour, particularly during the famous water splashing events.
Revellers were told to cover up this year.Source:AFP
“I have told officials, police and soldiers that there should be no women — or transgender women — dressed provocatively or dancing on the backs of trucks,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said. “If they do, they will be arrested.”
It comes after a shocking poll revealed around half the females who attended the water festival complained of being sexually harassed and groped by drunken men during the event in past years.
Again, the clothing rule seems to have been hard to enforce.
Authorities attempted to crack down on alcohol, topless dancers and other “indecencies”.Source:AFP
Authorities are now faced with the question, what can they do to bring down the death rate next year?