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Social media debates fireworks decision

Many are disappointed at the restrictions on pyrotechnics; Palace denies being involved in the move

The decision to omit fireworks displays across the country on His Majesty the King's birthday tomorrow triggered widespread debate on social networks yesterday.

It was not immediately clear who made the decision - the Interior Ministry or a government-appointed organising committee - but it ends a major traditional element of celebrations for the revered monarch's birthday.

The Interior Minister has issued an order restricting pyrotechnic performances during this year's state events marking the auspicious occasion, meaning that the customary vigils and singing of the royal anthem at city halls across the country will not include such activities.

Dissathorn Watcharothai, deputy secretary-general of the Royal Household Bureau and a member of the government panel, said the idea of restricting fireworks did not come from the palace.

"The main event in Bangkok, at Sanam Luang, has never included shows of fireworks, but elsewhere, I would not know about it, this year," he said.

Wibool Sa-nguanphong, permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry, said the decision was made by the organising committee appointed by the government. "The reasons should be clarified by the panel," he said.

Dissathorn said that neither Wibool nor any Interior Ministry representative had attended the meeting.

Most social media postings complained that the restriction would go against a custom they admired, while certain anti-government pages, without giving proof, accused PM's Office Minister Nivatthamrong Boonsong-paisal, the head of the panel and a long-time close aide to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of being behind the decision.

Niwathamrang clarified that the restriction had not been issued as an order, but rather as a request for cooperation, while an Interior Ministry source claimed that probably an old, similar order was presented to Wibool, and he possibly signed it, without reading it carefully.

Public transport will tomorrow offer free rides or discounted fares to fathers and children wearing yellow shirts in honour of the King. Free 22,071 runs on 2,530 city buses are available today and tomorrow, while 350 city buses and some interprovincial coaches will carry well-wishers from nine locations to the event venue at the Royal Plaza.

Fathers and children with yellow shirts and proof of kinship are entitled to half-priced tickets on interprovincial buses except services from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, Saraburi or Kamphaeng Saen in Nakhon Pathom, whose fares are already low. The discount is 30 per cent for routes longer than 300 kilometres.

Steam-engine train trips between Bangkok and Ayutthaya, which are run only four times a year, will start leaving Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok tomorrow at 8am at Bt140, while free cars will be attached to regular trains to and from Bangkok, along with special all-free trains to and from Ayutthaya.

The Airport Rail Link will allow fathers to ride at no charge from 4pm to midnight tomorrow.

Well-wishers can leave birthday greetings for His Majesty via two online channels - www.opm.go.th and www.facebook.com/85Celebration.

Yellow polo shirts are in high demand and are likely to run out of stock like in 2006 when His Majesty made a public appearance at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in front of a vast yellow sea of loyal subjects.


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