Rocket firing festival starts in E-sarn Tai with tough warning from authorities

As the merit-making "Boon Bang Fai" rocket festival is now starting in several northeastern provinces to mark the upcoming rainy season, the commissioner of the Zone Three Provincial Police warns senior police officers in eight provinces in the  lower northeast region or E-sarn Tai that they will be transferred or removed if betting on sky rockets continues to prevail in their areas of responsibilities.

Meanwhile the military is also making inspection of Al areas the festival is held to ensure no gambling is held and no illegally rocket is built.

Tough warning from the commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Phisan Juladilok came amid fear of increasing launching of the rockets or “Bang Fai” during the festival and consequent bet in most events which not only pose threat to lives and damages to properties from random falling rockets, but also to safety of aircraft flying above the event areas.

The commissioner warns that he will not hesitate to transfer senior police officers in the eight provinces in the lower northeast region or locally known as E-sarn Tai, should they allow betting on sky rockets in their respective areas of responsibility.

He has ordered a strict control in the size and capacity of skyrockets to be produced.

The commissioner admitted that in the past many police officers have turned a blind eye and allowed the betting.

But he warned that this will no longer be allowed and any if betting is discovered then the commandant in charge of the area is question will be immediately transferred.

“I have forbidden all betting on the rockets and have informed every province of the consequence of such an act. We want to ensure that the festival is celebrated in a traditional way but should betting be allowed to happen anywhere I will immediately recall the commandant of the area to face disciplinary action.”

According to the commissioner, Boon Bang Fai rocket festival is normally held by the local northeast villagers in E-sarn Tai prior to the coming of the rainy season to herald the new farming season.

Highlight of the merit-making ceremony which traced to the Laotian spiritual tradition of rain making is the rocket firing competition.

But in many instances in the past, these skyrockets were the cause of the numerous injuries, deaths destruction of property from the force of their destructive capacity.

Records of explosions and falling skyrockets causing death and destruction are numerous and are a regular phenomenon every year during these festivities.

Only four days before, a skyrocket was reported to have landed on a crowd of people resulting in a number of deaths and injuries in Pothilangka village in Si Sa Ket province even though military personnel were carrying out regular inspections to limit the size of these rockets.

At the same time deputy commander of Si Sa Ket peace keeping force Lt Col Wirathep Karunrobdun said it has become necessary for authorities to step in to coordinate and look after the festivities in order to ensure that everything goes in accordance with the law.

“Foremost on our minds is the safety of participants and other attendees during the firing of these rockets,” he said while leading a combined force of soldiers to arrest an illegal factory producing rockets for the festival.

On top of the dangers from exploding and falling rockets as the festival begins, civil aviation authorities at local airports also issued no firing notices into commercial flight paths.

This is particularly so for the Ubon Ratchathani international airport where residents are required to inform airport authorities at least three days prior to firing of skyrockets.

Furthermore, areas within a 5 km radius from the airport have been classified as a no fire zone.

So far this year no skyrockets have been recorded to have been fired into flight paths which differ greatly from the previous year where a number of rockets strayed into aircraft flight paths in Yasothorn and Roi Et provinces, according to aviation official.

Local authorities said other characteristic of the festival is the widespread betting on the skyrocket themselves where local residents place bets on which rocket can attain the highest altitude.

As a result of this, many of these rockets have grown in size and power with the huge amounts of powder packed into them so that they can fly higher.

The amount of destruction that these large rockets can cause has thus risen exponentially.

In light of these, authorities have undertaken strict inspection of all skyrockets such as in Amnat Charoen province where a number of suspect rockets were confiscated.

Amnat Charoen governor Suthinan Boonmee said while joining the raid at a factory that authorities wanted to ensure nobody would go overboard with regards to the rocket sizes.

The main consideration of the regulating efforts is to ensure that the festival is celebrated following local tradition and for that reason rockets are now limited to 3 inches in diameter and powder content must be between 15 – 120 kg.