By Tiffany Gwee
Contrary to some news reports, the Thai Ministry of Culture has no intention of suing the organisers of the upcoming Singaporean Songkran Festival that is supposed to take place for two days next month.
The Songkran Festival will hold a “H2O Music Fest” featuring both Thai and international artistes, a Muay Thai exhibition as well as a carnival. Known as the “Largest Water Festival in Singapore” where one is “bound to get wet”, the event is hosted by a few private companies with no collaboration with any Thai authorities.
Distortion of tradition?
Tension arose when many netizens on Thai forums and websites were unhappy because of the commercialised nature of the festival to be held in Singapore,\. They said that the Singapore event will make it lose its true meaning.
A Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) executive said earlier this week that she might consult several other state agencies to “see if legal action could be taken to protect Thailand’s cultural heritage.
Additionally, the director of the Culture Surveillance Bureau Yupa Taweewattana-boworn was reported to have said that it is unjustified that Singapore “distort the tradition” and host Songkran as a “tourism gimmick” because it is more than just playing with water, very different from the selling point of the Festival in Singapore.
She added that this is a “sensitive issue” that could “affect the two countries’ relationship”.
The Deputy Governor for Tourism Products Vilaiwan Twichasri also claimed that if Singapore holds the even on a long-term basis the effects might be “detrimental” – it could impact the inflow of tourists into Thailand during that period.
However, Ms Yupa clarified later that her agency, which falls under Thailand's Ministry of Culture, has no intention to file any lawsuit against Singapore.
"I never said anything like that," she added, "Such reports have caused damage to me, and to the Ministry of Culture".
"It′s a sensitive subject. I don′t want to cause any disturbance to international relations," she explained.
The Songkran Festival
Songkran is a Thai Festival to celebrate the traditional New Year’s Day in which people pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbours and monks. It is a time for cleaning and renewal. The throwing of water is an action to pay respect to people, by using water that had been poured over the Buddha to “bless” and “cleanse”.
Besides this, people also celebrate Songkran as a Buddhist festival and may choose to go to monasteries and offer food to monks.
Who else celebrates it?
Many other countries such as Myanmar and Laos celebrate it too, except that it is often organised by the Thai communities in the country or is in collaboration with the Thai cultural authorities.
In this case then, Singapore is different because the event is hosted by few private companies and not in partnership with Thai authorities.
Click here to view the official website for the Singapore Songkran Festival 2014.
In April 2010, the Bukit Batok Integration and Naturalisation Champion (INC) Committee and Bukit Batok Grassroots Organisations (GROs) jointly organized the “Bukit Batok Water Festival 2010” which saw participants from Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh and China.
"The organizing committee also arranged for the provision of spring water for the water splashing," this website reported. "The children accompanied by their parents had a whale of a time getting themselves all drenched from all the water splashing. Many local residents came to the event armed with super soakers of various sizes. Many residents interviewed hope that our Bukit Batok GROs could make this an annual event."