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Asia Minute: Thailand’s Cautious Festival


Thailand is closing bars and clubs in dozens of provinces, the latest move to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus. The actions come as residents are about to celebrate a national holiday.

All bars and clubs in Bangkok will be closed for at least two weeks, starting Friday.

Earlier this week, city officials closed bars in three districts of the capital.

But now the federal government is shutting down all entertainment venues in 41 provinces for that same two-week period to stall the growth of a coronavirus cluster.

The timing is critical because Thailand is about to launch into one of its biggest national festivals—Songkran which is the traditional Thai New Year, a Buddhist holiday.

Celebrations are scheduled to begin on Tuesday and continue for a couple of days.

Earlier this week, the Public Health Minister said people will be able to travel around the country without quarantines, although some districts may have certain restrictions.

One tradition that’s usually part of the holiday will not happen this year—splashing water.

Symbolic of a ritual cleansing, over the years this has turned into a widespread practice of squirt guns and water balloons and even people tossing pails of water at each other.

The Director General of the Department of Disease Control says it’s okay to sprinkle water on statues of the Buddha, or carefully pour water on the palms of elders but there is definitely no splashing allowed.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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