The governor of Ubon Ratchathani has threatened a life sentence for anyone who fires a rocket and causes damage to an aircraft during the upcoming Bun Bang Fai Festival.
The Rocket Festival, celebrated in much of the Northeast and Laos, takes place this year from May 6 to June 4. Ubon Ratchathani Governor Somsak Jangtrakul said his province would step up security and promote the traditional celebration of the festival by issuing 22 regulations.
Somsak said the regulations included a restriction that would allow each village to fire rockets for only one day, but if more than three villages hold the festival together, the time can be extended to two days, with a limit of 15 rockets per day.
Each village is required to inform the authorities at least 20 days in advance in order to allow time to notify the aviation control centre. The village also has to inform the aviation control centre again at least one hour before firing the rocket.
“The province has issued a rocket-firing ban in 14 tambon in Muang, Warin Chamrap and Don Mod Daeng districts because these areas are in air-traffic routes,” he said.
“And also, rocket firing will be restricted in all districts from May 15 to 18 because the Royal Family will visit the border-patrol police schools in Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen at that time.”
He warned that those who violate the rocket-firing bans or cause damage to aircraft would face the death penalty and an Bt800,000 fine.
“During the event, the organisers are not allowed to collect entrance fees or count the time of a rocket flight, to prevent gambling. Special units will be set up in every district to monitor and suppress gambling activities during the festival,” he said.
“If any district still has rocket gambling, it will be considered the local officers’ fault.”
During the Bun Bang Fai Festival, every community traditionally fires home-made rockets into the sky as a signal for the god of rain that it is the time to start the rainy season.
However, in recent years the festival has become an excuse for gambling on which rocket will fly the highest and for the longest period of time. There have also been tragedies from explosions of poorly built rockets and fears that a rocket might hit an aircraft.