In a move to reign in Pi Mai the Lao authorities have finally acted with a swathe of new measures to stop water throwing activities at this year’s upcoming festival.
All “overt” water throwing could now warrant charges for assault with serious dousing cases leading to jail time, heavy fines or both.
The move comes after growing public pressure in recent years to put an end to the drunken revelry at what is often termed the traditional Lao New Year but has become more widely known as “Pi Mai Water War”.
However, there was good news for traditionalists – sprinkling scented water on Buddhist images and over the hands of respected elders will not be considered a crime, so long as it is done properly and scents used have been purchased from official government outlets.
Meanwhile, it was further announced that should the recommendations be ignored or flouted the festival may be cancelled altogether in subsequent years or possibly incorporated into the Western calendar’s existing New Year.
Economic ministry insiders are saying that this will help with productivity in the nation by combining two holidays into one thus giving Lao less days off.
The move has been hailed by road safety activists as well as the tourism sector who suggest that there will be no detrimental impact on tourism as visitors will now spend more money on perfumes for scented water.
It was also mentioned that it will help visitors to understand and appreciate Lao customs better by limiting the number of young women parading in wet t-shirts.
Announcing the surprise measures at the Ministry of Cultural Traditions yesterday was spokesman Chaidee Bomaknam who said: “This water madness has gone on for too long”
“All overt tossing or splashing of water nationwide will be banned. Obviously people will still be able to splash water in the privacy of their own homes for the purposes of showering”.
He said the ban would apply to all public areas for the period of April 12 to 17 inclusive.
Lao citizens were further warned that they should refrain from watering the garden during those dates as this might be filmed and shared on social media creating confusion and misunderstanding among the public leading to a possible rise in unnecessary computer crime arrests.
“Putting ice into the water could easily warrant a charge though having powder in the water is a grey area unless it enters the eyes,” he said. “Additionally, using moat water may well constitute an attempted murder charge, as the water is considered hazardous”.
Plans are also underway to set up EPMCs (Emergency PiMai Courts) to deal swiftly and effectively with any lawbreakers. Authorities plan to publically torch any water guns that are confiscated.
Government sources said that a massive media exercise centering on Facebook and poster campaign are planned to get the message out about this year’s Pi Mai festival.