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‘Songkran is culture not religion’

 | April 4, 2014

Local Siamese community leaders say mufti does not know the tradition of the Thai New Year celebration.

songkranPETALING JAYA: Perlis mufti Juanda Jaya was being ignorant for his call to ban Muslims from attending Songkran festivities when he does not know the tradition of the celebration, local Siamese community leaders said today.

Former Malaysia Siamese Association chairperson Siw Chun Eam said Songkran is a cultural celebration to usher in the Thai New Year.

And because Songkran traditionally falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, festivities include the splashing of water on one another.

“It is similar to Chinese New Year. Would you call Chinese New Year a religious occasion? No,” she told FMT when contacted today.

She explained that Buddhist devotees take the opportunity of the New Year to clean and bathe Buddha statues but it was not an integral part of Songkran.

“Wesak Day is a religious occasion, but Songkran and Loi Krathong (floating decoration) are certainly not,” said the former senator.

Siw Chun was responding to Juanda’s statement advising Muslims not to attend the Songkran celebrations citing its religious elements.

“The Songkran festival is clearly a religious occasion as during the ceremony, the statue of Buddha is bathed and the water is then distributed to the attendees for them to receive blessings,” said Juanda.

A large-scale three-day Songkran celebration will begin tonight in Kuala Perlis and among the guests of honour expected to attend are Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz, Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man and state Umno liaison committee chairman Shahidan Kassim.

Songkran is officially celebrated in Thailand from April 13 to 15.

Siw Chun, the organiser of the celebrations in Perlis said none of the guests had indicated that they would not attend following Juanda’s statement.

“This is not the first time the state religious body has done this, they issued a fatwa before.

“But the celebration I have organised is geared towards promoting tourism. There will be 15 booths and all have been booked by Malay companies such as Celcom and private colleges.

“So is the mufti trying to say these people cannot join as well?” she asked.

The Kedah Siamese Community Culture Association spokesperson Manit Sripradith said, “ Juanda should have got his facts correct, before speaking. Songkran is a cultural occasion for everyone to join in.”

There are about 60,000 Siamese in Malaysia, mostly residing in the northern Peninsular states bordering Thailand.


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