I hear the sounds of machine gun fire; loud bursts of popping and cracking, followed by shrill screams. I look out my window and realize my mistake; it’s only a group of young idiots setting off firecrackers. Ah yes, the “happy sounds” of a Lunar New Year are here again.
Commonly known to Westerners as “Chinese New Year,” this annual event can indeed by fun and festive with its colorful parades and costumes. But the traditional use of firecrackers always sets my teeth on edge. I hate-hate-hate firecrackers. They are dangerous, noisy, and nothing more than toys for mindless morons. Every time I hear the sound of firecrackers I’m reminded of those miserable Fourth of July celebrations back in the USA; drunken rednecks gleefully setting off firecrackers and other cheap fireworks, trying to either blow up the neighborhood cat or seeing who can be the most obnoxious. Usually, however, such mayhem resulted in someone losing a few fingers … or worse.
Such stupid behavior, however, is certainly not confined to the United States. Here in Thailand we have our own cherished tribe of idiots who race motorcycles, throw firecrackers, shoot guns, and act with reckless abandon — sometimes without even touching a drop of alcohol. Last night in the Thailand province of Suphan Buri, three people were killed and over 50 others injured after debris from a fireworks display showered a group of wooden homes in an adjacent neighborhood, leading to several fires and an explosion. This was a huge celebration with thousands of people in attendance, including local dignitaries such as former Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa, who according to a newspaper report “escaped unhurt and left the area.”
Sadly, such tragic incidents happen all too often in a country where safety regulations are often either totally ignored or circumvented. And they occur with more disturbing frequency during “festive” holiday periods. It was only two years ago when dozens of New Year’s Eve revelers died in a fire at Bangkok’s Santika nightclub. But that tragedy doesn’t seem to have led to any better enforcement of safety codes in local buildings. It’s still dangerous out there.