Happy New Year for Thailand, which (in Southeast Asia) shares the festive season with predominately Theravada Buddhist Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The imagery of Thais joyfully throwing water over each other traditionally defines the celebration, and it is also reasonably accurate. Water is everything in Thailand, and without it there would be no rice, no greenery and almost certainly far fewer Thais.
And it is that significance of water that means that, even amongst the revelry there are problems looming.
The Prime Minister is amongst those urging the need to save water through more restrained splashing around, but the far more significant step of diverting the Mekong to sustain an ailing segment of Thailand’s agricultural industry is given much less prominence in Thailand’s increasing state controlled media.
Of course more water for some means less water for others, with Thailand’s impoverished neighbours having little choice but to accept it…for now. Sadly I suspect it is among the first steps towards the water conflicts to come in Southeast Asia, as there are a limited number of headlines warning of “danger” that a country’s population will live with before insisting its government takes action. And that is even before the project is expanded.
With climate change models indicating a future with too much salt water coming up from the Gulf of Thailand and not enough fresh water coming down from the snowfalls, the centrality of water to Thailand’s future is unlikely to diminish soon.