In Pictures: Thailand's Songkran festival

Political divisions are forgotten as New Year is celebrated with a wet and wild water nationwide fight.


Bangkok, Thailand - In spite of Thailand's seemingly never-ending political turmoil, people across the country put aside their differences - and coloured shirts - to celebrate Sonkgran, the annual water festival that marks the Thai New Year.

Here in the capital, Bangkok, revellers roam the streets armed with water pistols and buckets of icy water, showing little mercy to those who might not have been quite so keen to take part in the wet festivities.

The three days of celebration are a welcome respite from the political protests, which in this latest episode of the long-running saga have been ongoing for more than five months. Prior to Songkran, the pro-government "red shirts" had started to mobilise, fearful that the anti-government "yellow shirt" protesters were getting closer to achieving their goal of overthrowing the country's caretaker prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Fiery rhetoric has spouted daily from both sides of the political divide leading to an increasingly tense situation. Grenade and gun attacks are an almost daily occurrence and the army, perhaps Thailand's most powerful institution, has warned of the threat of civil war if things continue as they are.

However, despite the gloomy political outlook, and the fact that the protests are a fight for who will control Thailand in the future, both sides have agreed to take a break for the holidays to have what is, in essence, a nationwide water fight.

Once Songkran is over and the water pistols are put away for another year, the focus will once again turn to the political arena. But for now, if only for three days, Thailand is enjoying a welcome break.

Follow photographer George Henton on Twitter: @georgehenton