Government AffairsMuted celebrations as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia tighten travel restrictions ahead of holiday seasons.

Dull festive mood dampens travel in SE Asia

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No more Songkran fun for both Cambodia and Thailand (pictured) this year.
No more Songkran fun for both Cambodia and Thailand (pictured) this year. Photo Credit: Getty Images/drpnncpp

For the second year in a row, the traditional New Year and observance of Ramadan are going to be quieter affair for several countries in Southeast Asia.

Cambodia had imposed a recent string of curfews and shutdowns the past week, even as new directives have been announced for the upcoming Khmer New Year holiday, which lasts two days from 14 April.

While the current 8pm-5am curfew is expected to end on 14 April, Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng has urged the capital's residents to stay home and refrain from inter-provincial travel, since any slip-up could cause another outbreak and an extended curfew "for another week or two weeks until we achieve a break in transmission,” said a representative of the health ministry.

The celebrations will be going ahead, although instructions have gone out for tightened security, safety and public order in the city, even as all Covid-19 preventive measures continue to be mandatory, reported The Phnom Penh Post.

This includes banning all gambling and traditional games which would conflict with existing social distancing measures. The New Year festival Songkran, will also not allow water guns in public.

Similarly, there will be no water play in Thailand at its annual popular Songkran festival, with multiple provinces voluntarily opting for a 14-day quarantine, even as many more events have been cancelled, said the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

The Bangkok Post report also shared that trips and revenue could likely be halved this year to 1.6 million and six billion baht (US$194 million), respectively, according to TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn. Cancellations are at a lower scale (15%) in the South, since Phuket and Phangnga still welcome tourists without quarantine.

Indonesia, which typically sees heavy domestic travel for the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, has issued an internal travel ban for next month's event. The 6-17 May holy month of Ramadan will see a full stop for Indonesians to all travel back to their home provinces whether through land, air or sea — all except for diplomatic travellers, trips for visiting ailing family or bereavement reasons, and workers who have approval from superiors, reported The Straits Times.

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