Songkran is considered one of the most significant festivals in Thailand: it’s an important occasion for families to come together and represents a time for positive change and transformation for the New Year. Water is very symbolic as it is a sign of cleansing and starting afresh.
Songkran literally means “astrological passage” in Sanskrit and the official celebrations last from 13th to 15th April, although visitors to Thailand will have seen that celebrations often go on for a longer period around this. It is a sacred time of year. Thai customs include visiting the temple and the use of fragrant water in traditional rituals, including ‘Rod nam dam hua’, where fragrant water is poured over the palms of family elders to receive blessings for the New Year.
Songkran is often referred to as the “Water Festival” after these traditional rituals, and the custom of young Thais splashing water over each other for fun. This custom has developed into water parties in the streets, which is probably the number one image of Songkran for foreigners.
April is the hottest time of year in Thailand and thousands of British people participate in Songkran festivities across the country to celebrate Thai New Year. The water parties are a particular attraction for visitors.
But the festivities also bring risks. According to a Bangkok Post article published in January this year, during the week of Songkran in 2015 there were 3,373 reported road traffic incidents, which resulted in 3,559 injuries and 364 deaths, representing 95% of deaths during this period.
Layla Slatter MBE, HM Consul to Thailand said:
Songkran is a special time and is widely celebrated in Thailand. Many British holidaymakers and residents in the country will participate in the celebrations and undoubtedly get very wet in the process! We encourage British people to enjoy the festivities and appreciate the local customs and traditions, but also to understand the risks. Due to the high number of road traffic incidents that occur during the Songkran holiday period, we urge British people to be alert and cautious when using the roads and to keep valuables protected from water and out of sight.
British people in Thailand should take extra precautions if planning to travel around the country during the Songkran period, and where possible avoid using the roads. Valuables should be kept safe or placed in waterproof pouches and hidden out of sight to avoid loss, theft or damage.
What can the FCO do for people who have problems when living or travelling abroad?
The FCO can:
- Issue you with an emergency travel document
- Provide information about transferring money
- Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime or are ill or in hospital
- Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
- Contact you if you are detained abroad
- Contact friends and family at home for you if you wish
- Provide help in cases of forced marriage
- Assist people affected by parental child abduction
The FCO cannot:
- Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
- Give you legal advice or translate documents
- Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
- Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people (but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards)
- Pay any bills or give you money
- Make travel arrangements for you
Find out more how the British Embassy Bangkok can provide support to British nationals in Thailand.
Bangkok Post article on the road traffic incidents statistics