More than 10,000 maskless Thais and foreign partied like it was 2019 at the first full-blown Full Moon Party since before the coronavirus pandemic, an event the Thai government apparently thinks was immune to Covid-19.
The government’s coronavirus hypocrisy reached new heights with the massive April 16 beach party on Koh Phangan as only three days earlier army soldiers, police and local government administrators were sicked on on a similar youthful demographic on Bangkok’s Khaosan Road and in Phuket and Chiang Mai for the heinous crime of splashing water for Songkran.
Water guns and buckets, face powder and other traditional Songkran frolicking were banned because, government health experts claimed, doing so would helped spread Covid-19, due to people partying in such close proximity, likely without masks and throwing water that could carry the virus.
So exactly how a Full Moon Party, with ten times the number of the same teen and twentysomething foreign backpackers and Thais partying, dancing and having sex in close proximity all night, on a beach, with water and no masks any different?
It’s not, of course.
The hypocrisy is even more galling given that the reason the Full Moon Party was allowed to happen was that organizers claimed they would thoroughly screen those attending, insuring they were vaccinated against Covid-19, took an antigen test and didn’t have fevers.
Those are exactly the same measures the Khaosan business association promised to enforce. And, unlike Koh Phangan, where the majority of those screening measures were impossible to enforce on the huge mob that flocked to the island, Khaosan is a controlled area, with gates and testing stations able to be set at every entrance.
Neither the Surat Thani Province nor national government will ever disclose how huge the Full Moon Party’s Covid-19 cluster will become, as more are scheduled monthly for the rest of the year and no Thai bureaucrat wants to derail that gravy train. But there will be many, many.
That’s not to say that the party shouldn’t have happened. Given the age of those attending and the relatively lesser severity of the omicron coronavirus variant, 95% of those cases will be asymptomatic or mild. The point is that if the Full Moon Party was allowed to happen, then Songkran water fights in Khaosan, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and everywhere else should have been permitted. And bars and nightclubs should be allowed to fully and legally reopen, for that matter.
This weekend’s “Back to the Roots” Full Moon Party was organized by businesses on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Beach and they were responsible for health screening their own customers before allowing them to enter in the party. Police and volunteers also were deployed at beach checkpoints to facilitate screening and document checks. Officials, of course, denied that anyone escaped being checked, laughable suggestion given the size the party and crowd.
The weekend party was estimated to have generated 300 million baht for Koh Phangan. After the party, most of the tourists returned to the mainland by ferry where they will spread the virus across the country.
Hopefully, this pandemic edition of the Full Moon Party will mark the end of a terrible two years in Thailand under a government that has kept disease-control restrictions in place far too long. Proof of the pudding will come Friday when the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration considers whether to finally scrap the Thailand Pass system and end the “Test & Go” and “sandbox” tourist-entry schemes.