Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has invited Buddhists to observe Makha Bucha Day with religious ceremonies as usual this year, noting that practitioners should use smokeless incense to minimize air pollution and that the national stock of face masks is still sufficient, seeking to ward off potential coronavirus infection fears.
This year’s Makha Bucha, which is one of the most important holidays among Theravada Buddhist countries, will be celebrated from 8–10 February in Thailand, marking the full moon of the third month in the lunar calendar.
A statement from the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), suggested that consumer spending during the upcoming Makha Bucha Day and subsequent Valentine’s Day celebrations will likely be lower than hoped, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 25 people in Thailand as of this writing, as well as Bangkok’s ongoing battle with poor air quality. (National News Bureau of Thailand)
Activities scheduled across Thailand during the holiday weekend will include the delivery of royal flames to light candles at Buddhist monasteries, Ambassadors to Thailand from 12 countries participating in alms-giving ceremonies at Pathum Wanaram Temple, activities for children and youths, along with exhibitions and prayer services. Government offices will be closed this coming Saturday and Monday, and alcohol sales will be banned all day Saturday.
Members of the public have been asked to use smokeless incense sticks to help reduce air pollution and airborne particles in a city that has recorded some of its highest levels of air pollution on record. In January, activists in Bangkok held a protest as Thai officials closed some schools due to concern for the health of pupils. “Air pollution affects everyone . . . it is life and death for all of us,” said Tara Buakamsri, Thailand director for the environmental group Greenpeace. (Reuters)
The prime minister joined a campaign to plant one million trees in a bid to curb air pollution, as part of the Green City campaign by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The campaign will be launched officially in a ceremony on 9 February at Siam Paragon shopping mall, with the prime minister presiding over the occasion.
Makha Bucha day (Pali: Māgha Pūjā) celebrates the Buddha’s first gathering of 1,250 disciples, ceremonially marking the beginning of the sangha, or community of Buddhist practitioners. It is historically an occasion for Buddhists to make offerings to monks and to visit temples, take on special vows, and engage in meditation or ritual activities.
UTCC expects bleak Makha Bucha and Valentine’s Day this year (National News Bureau of Thailand)
PM invites Buddhists to celebrate Makha Bucha (Pattaya Mail)
Alcohol sales ban for Makha Bucha day (The Phuket News)
Thai protesters demand action as air pollution clouds Bangkok (Reuters)