Nearly four million people are expected to travel within Thailand during the Songkran holiday between Friday (April 13) and Sunday, prompting authorities to step up measures for public safety.
Police promised to make this year’s Songkran Festival safer for all revellers by deploying more personnel.
Authorities and experts, however, said it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure safety, especially from crime and accidents during the busy travel period and at celebrations.
Tourist Police deputy commander Police Major General Surachet Hakpal said about three million domestic tourists and 930,000 tourists from abroad were expected to travel within the country during the three days of Songkran.
The number of travellers was a big increase over the previous years, he said.
In order to provide safety to all tourists visiting Thailand during Songkran, Maj Gen Surachet said 5,000 tourist police officers and volunteers would be deployed to assist tourists.
“Tourism is a major source of revenue for the country and the Songkran Festival is a peak period for tourism. People from around the world come to Thailand to travel and celebrate the festival, while many Thais also use the long weekends to travel within the country and return home as well,” he said.
“So, we have to take care all of the tourists and travellers and make sure that their journey will be pleasant.”
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports said that within the relatively short period from April 1 to 17 last year, Thailand welcomed more than 1.53 million international tourists, while 1.25 million Thais also travelled within the country during that period.
The seven-day period from April 11-17, 2017, generated up to 45.4 billion baht (S$1.9 billion) in revenue for the country.
However, Maj Gen Surachet said that the people could not rely solely on police officers to provide safety and they must take personal precautions to ensure they don’t land themselves in dangerous situations.
“I would like to caution all people not to enjoy Songkran by putting their safety at risk by getting too drunk or travelling to dangerous places alone. This kind of risky behaviour has already caused many people to become victims of crimes such as physical attacks or robbery,” he said.
Another threat to public safety has been the high number of road accidents. Along with the New Year celebrations, accidents during Songkran have led to a huge number of fatalities every year.
Last year’s statistics showed there were 3,690 road accidents during the seven monitoring days of Songkran, which killed 390 persons and injured 3,808 persons.
The director of the Academic Center for Road Safety, Mr Thanapong Jinvong, said that in order to avoid road accidents during this dangerous period, people who drive and travel by car should strictly comply with traffic rules by driving within speed limits.
They must not drink before driving and must make sure that they get enough rest before sitting behind the wheel to make sure that they do not fall asleep while driving.
He said ignoring these basic rules was the primary cause of road accidents.
More than 3,000 motorists were found to be driving while drunk on the first of the so-called “seven dangerous days” of the Songkran holiday.
The deputy spokesperson of the National Council for Peace and Order, Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, said on Thursday that 156 vehicles were seized on Wednesday and 2,716 motorcyclists and other drivers were charged with drunk driving.
Col Sirichan also said stepped up spot checks on roads had identified 3,339 cases of drunk driving.
More than 1,860 of those cases involved motorcyclists, she said, and 105 motorcycles were seized and 356 driving licences were confiscated.
Authorities arrested 1,457 motorcyclists who will be going to court, while the rest were fined.
The remainder of the cases involved private cars and transport vehicles, with 41 vehicles seized and 82 driving licences confiscated. A total of 1,259 motorists face charges in court and the rest were fined.
Mr Thanapong also advised other travellers who use public transportation to be wary of the safety standards of the vehicle they ride in.
Despite strict measures imposed on public transport carriers, there were still many illegal bus and van operators whose vehicles did not meet the proper safety standards, he said. RT – EP