Thailand's Cleansing Water Wars News Feed

Thailand's Cleansing Water Wars  
by Jules Kay

With Thailand in a state of political disharmony, April could not have arrived at a better time for the Land of Smiles. People all over the country celebrate the 

Lunar New Year from the 13-15 April and generally do this by engaging in the biggest water fight in the world. This year, with the political heat rising and the 

country divided between those wearing Red or Yellow, traditional water wars may be the perfect opportunity too cool things down.   

Modest demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok fade into insignificance when compared to the mayhem that ensues all over Thailand during the Songkran 

Festival. Men, women and children take to the streets armed with every known receptacle that can hold water, their sole aim to drench their fellow countrymen as 

a New Year greeting. Sophisticated pumps with long range sprays are attached to the back of pick up trucks, high-powered water pistols fly off the supermarket 

shelves and ice is added to the mix for a little extra thrill. Everyone who ventures out of their house in the daylight hours is treated to a dousing, no matter their age 

or social standing and tourists are favoured targets, not through any sense of malice, but because Thai people see the festival as the ultimate celebration of fun and 

want everyone to share in it.   

Of course, there's also a deeply spiritual side to Songkran and although in recent years the water throwing has become more of a party game than a profound 

ceremony, the act still essentially represents purification. During the three day holiday, houses are given a spring clean, people clean up and dress their best, while 

monks bathe the Buddha images in every temple across the land. At a special ceremony in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the King himself bathes and replaces the 

robes on the famous Emerald Buddha, while another revered image known as Phra Phuttasihing is placed on a throne and paraded through the palace grounds, 

then taken out into the public gardens where devotees can sprinkle it with lustral water.  

On a more personal level, many Thai people see Songkran as a time for the young to respect their elders, for families to respect their ancestors and for 

communities to come together and respect their traditions and values. Modern influences have lessened the importance of these elements and in recent years there 

have been calls for a more reserved approach to the revelry. But most Thai people can't resist using these three days as time to let go. It's an opportunity to drop 

the quiet, modest facade that dominates much of their daily lives and to party themselves into oblivion.   

In Sanskrit, Songkran means 'Great New Day", the beginning of something better. Legend has it that a wise king removed his head when an even wiser monk 

answered three questions he had arrogantly presumed had no answer. Thailand faces more tricky questions as it searches for a peaceful route to democracy. But 

with the Songkran water flying and the smiles returning to people's faces, hot headed responses will hopefully be avoided, as they have many times in the past.


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