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EVEN AS police claimed to push stricter law enforcement to suppress crimes during the Songkran Festival, the increase in the number of accidents, injuries and deaths on the road on the third day of this year’s “seven dangerous days” of the Songkran holidays raised doubts whether the preventive measures are working.
The Road Safety Centre (RSC) yesterday reported that after the first three of the seven days, the number of road fatalities, injuries and accidents were all higher than during the same period of last year.
According to the road accident report on April 13 – the third day of the monitoring period – there were a total of 820 accidents, 86 deaths and 852 injured people – with increases in all numbers except the death toll.
When added to the statistics of the previous two days of the campaign, the totals for the first three days were all higher than the same period last year. RFSC statistics reported that from Wednesday until yesterday, there were 1,846 road accidents that injured 1,934 persons, killed 183 people, while during the same period last year there were 1,741 accidents, 1,778 injured, and 183 deaths.
Meanwhile, police have been monitoring about 300 surveillance TV cameras in Bangkok’s Silom Road area around the clock as part of precautionary measures for tourist safety during Songkran, while also checking revellers for the modesty of their dress and actions.
In addition, in an attempt to avoid violence, police have issued warnings to revellers over alcohol consumption in prohibited areas.
On the tourism front, the Songkran Festival has attracted millions of Thai and foreign tourists to popular destinations nationwide, generating significant revenue for local economies.
Chuchat on-charern, the Tourism Authority of Thailand chief for the southern province of Phang-nga, said an estimated 155,000 tourists visited the province, with each Thai tourist spending an average of Bt4,000 per day and each foreign tourist spending an average of Bt6,586 per day.
The province’s 11,000 hotel rooms have an occupancy rate of over 80 per cent this year, he said, adding that the tourism revenue during Songkran is estimated to top Bt1.1 billion, up 5 per cent from the previous year. The province is popular among German, Scandinavian and Asian tourists due to its proximity to popular islands.
On the second day of the three days of the long traditional Thai New Year yesterday, Thailand was still soaked in a festive mood, even as the Meteorological Department reported a midday temperature above 32 degrees Celsius in every part of the country. Some provinces in the upper part of Thailand reeled in heat exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.
For the remainder of the holidays, the Weather Forecast Bureau yesterday said every region would face very hot weather. Temperature in the northern, northeastern, central and eastern regions would range from 34 to 40 degrees Celsius, while the average temperature in Bangkok and the South would be slightly cooler, averaging 32 to 38 degrees Celsius.
The highest temperature yesterday was recorded at 40.2 degrees Celsius in Nong Khai, Si Saket, Chaiyaphum and Surin provinces in the Northeast.
People planning to participate in outdoor Songkran water fights were advised to stay cool to prevent heat stroke and avoid long exposure to the midday sun without skin protection, or they could suffer sunburns.
Songkran celebration venues in major cities across the country reported an unexpectedly high turnout as people played in the water to cool off during the hot day.
Wanchai Sakudomchai, director of the Meteorological Department, forecast that today – the final day of the Songkran Festival – an approaching cold front from southern China would affect the weather in the eastern and northeastern regions, with risk of summer storms from today until next Wednesday.
As summer storms often bring intense downpours, thunder, gusty winds and hail, Wanchai urged all people residing in affected regions to be cautious. Local people and farmers have also been told to remain prepared, as the summer storms could damage crops and properties.
In the northern region, large crowds of Chinese tourists were seen celebrating Songkran and joyfully splashing water on each other with colourful water guns. There also were tourists from Western countries and Thais at Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate and along the moat in Chiang Mai’s old town.