29 killed on the first day of Songkran

On the first day of the Songkran festival in Thailand 29 people were killed in road accidents while another 400 were injured.

And a man was shot by a teenage gang following a fight in a snooker club.

The incidents occurred at the start of The Thai festival, which celebrates the traditional Thai New Year.

The festival, which lasts a week, is known as the seven dangerous days of Songkran.

The 29 deaths were caused by drunken driving and speeding, common during the celebrations.
But the figures are down on the 2010 festival.

During the same period last year there were 557 road accidents, this has dropped to 365 for this year.
And the number of deaths decreased by 35.5 percent.

Thailand’s road safety centre, who will release accident figures each day, said the provinces of Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya and Prachuap Khiri Khan were leading in the number of fatalities.

The Thai man who was shot in the hip by ten youths, who followed him after the snooker hall dispute, was visiting relatives in Pattaya during the national festival.

He is in a stable condition.

This year’s seven days of Songkran started on Monday and will run until Sunday.

Each year Songkran is marred by road accidents and deaths, but it is also famous for the throwing of water.

During the festival Thais roam the streets armed with water pistols, hoses and buckets ready to drench each other with the water.

The throwing of water originated as a way of showing respect, and symbolises the washing away of all the bad.
The tradition has evolved amongst the young as a way of soaking themselves and others as relief from the summer heat.

The Songkran festival is also a time when people pay respect to their elders and visit Buddhist monasteries.
Songkran is also celebrated in Laos, Cambodia, and by the Dai people in Yunnan, China.

Sarah Taylor