Thais soak in new year with nationwide water fight

People take part in a water fight during Songkran celebrations in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat.
People take part in a water fight during Songkran celebrations in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat.PHOTO: AFP
A street vendor offers betel chewing mixes and cigarettes in Yangon, Myanmar, near a crowd celebrating the Buddhist New Year or Thingyan as it is known locally.
A street vendor offers betel chewing mixes and cigarettes in Yangon, Myanmar, near a crowd celebrating the Buddhist New Year or Thingyan as it is known locally. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Hoards of revellers armed with plastic water guns poured onto Thai streets on Friday (April 14) for a second day of watery warfare to ring in the kingdom's traditional new year.

Known as Songkran, the Thai holiday is celebrated by paying respect to elders and sprinkling water over Buddha figures at local temples.

But the festival has also become one of the world's biggest - and booziest - water fights.

Every April rowdy street parties erupt across the nation as hundreds of thousands of Thais and tourists don floral shirts and drench each other with brightly-coloured water pistols.

Similar but smaller water festivals are also held in neighbouring Buddhist countries like Myanmar and Laos.

The burst of colour was especially striking this year in Bangkok, where many people have worn only black and white for the past six months to mourn the October death of the deeply revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Many see the soggy celebration as a fun-filled respite from the sweltering heat that grips Thailand during its hot and dry season.

But the military junta that came to power in 2014 has tried - mostly in vain - to rein in the revelry with bans on skimpy clothing and restrictions on alcohol.

The generals have also struggled to curb drink driving, which surges during the holiday week, earning it a reputation as Thailand's "Seven Deadly Days".

Authorities reported 167 road deaths over the first three days of this year's festival - a toll only marginally lower than the 181 deaths recorded over the same period last April.

The number of accidents was also up slightly, according to the Interior Ministry, with nearly half of the crashes involving drunk drivers.