Years ago I spent Songkran playing in the sandy waters of the Nan River. Lots of fun and no traffic jams.
I imagine that if a Chiang Mai resident of my father’s age were to return from the dead, well might she ask “Where has Songkran gone?”
Her fun would have been like mine in Nan, playing in the Ping River and taking a little sand from the river back to refurbish the surrounds of her local temple to prepare them for the coming rainy season and prevent the grounds being a sea of mud.
Now she will find the temple grounds largely treeless, and mostly concrete to accommodate the profitable parking of cars. Her river is now too deep, dangerous and polluted to play in. This is a result of regular dredging to speed the waters to flood provinces all the way from Tak to Bangkok and the failure to operate a plant, built at great expense, to treat the city’s waste water.
Construction projects, as is well known have provided and continue to provide opportunities the for corrupt enrichment of public officials, payment of electricity bills to run equipment do not and hence the repeated failure to budget for clean water.
While the Songkran of b.e. 2555 might come as a shock to an ancient, she would I think share the happiness of local people here that our own Chiang Mai born Prime Minister Yingluck has come to share in some of our more traditional New Year activities. But the Prime Minister comes here not on a problem solving mission and soon must return to important duties in the capital.
So now I ask is it too much to hope for the early return of our former PM Thaksin to Chiang Mai as a free man to help? Dr Thaksin has shown regret for some of his misguided policies while in office and support for autonomous government in the troubled south of Thailand where people refuse to accept the dictates of Bangkok.
If that approach is good enough for the south why not for the north? I recall years ago complaining to the then Mayor of Chiang Mai Khun Boonlert about destruction of the Ping River frontage and his response was “Well, it is very hard to do anything about this as the order comes from Bangkok”.
If Thaksin comes home with no legal cases hanging over him, the government can then end its association with the most corrupt force in Thai electoral politics , and can then clean out the dirt associated with the Chiang Mai political oligarchy and bureaucracy. He can clean out conflicts of interest, such as the recent proposal to build a flood wall along the Ping to protect the ill-advised over development in the former flood basin area of the Night Bazaar.
Finally he can help by asking for a budget to clean waste water entering the Ping River, in part by ending destructive dredging and perhaps we can rejoice in the return of the Songkran of old?
(To be continued.)