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Concern over the conditions of the King’s eldest daughter, who has spent the past week in hospital care, appears to have prompted some government agencies to cancel their New Year celebrations – but others said they’ll go ahead with the planned festivities.

Princess Bajrakitiyabha while attending the IAEA 58th General Conference. Vienna, Austria. 24 September 2014. (Source: IAEA Imagebank)

Although no official reason was given for those cancellations, the government in recent days has called for a large-scale campaign for prayers and religious rituals to wish Princess Bajrakitiyabha a speedy recovery. The 44-year-old was sent to a hospital in Bangkok after she collapsed due to unspecified “heart conditions” on 14 December, the palace said. 

Those calling off year-end festivities include the Office of the Court of Justice.  According to an internal document reported by local media, court officials will leave off celebrations to hold prayer sessions and give alms to monks on behalf of Princess Bajrakitiyabha. 

A similar measure was adopted by the Ministry of Education, local media reported on Friday, citing an internal memo.

The local administration in Chonburi province has also announced on its Facebook page that the New Year’s Eve countdown event in some districts has been scrapped.  No explanation was given. 

The beach town of Pattaya, a special administrative area independent of Chonburi municipality, likewise scaled down its New Year events. In an announcement posted on Friday, officials there said a series of New Year firework displays that were originally planned for 29-31 December have been canceled. 

A concert to herald the New Year will still take place as planned, the announcement said. 

In Chiang Mai province, a botanical garden announced the cancellation of its year-end “Night Light of Flora Festival” – only to reverse its decision a day later, after netizens bombarded its Facebook page with questions and messages of disappointment. 

The Royal Park Rajapruek said its event will now go ahead as planned from 26 December to 2 January. It cited communication errors for the U-turn and apologised. 

The flurry of cancellations doesn’t seem to be limited to the government sector either. AIS, one of the country’s major telecommunication firms, on Wednesday called off its mini-concert event featuring idol girl group BNK48 at Siam Center shopping mall, just two days before it was supposed to take place. AIS did not explain why.  

The palace has been largely silent on Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s treatment. In a statement released on Tuesday, the palace said the condition of Her Royal Highness, known to Thais simply as Princess Bha, is “stable to a certain extent.” 

It also said her heart is not functioning “as well as it should be,” before mentioning the use of unidentified machines to assist her vital organs. 

The show must go on 

Many business operators, especially in the hospitality and tourism industries, are betting their hopes on year-end festivals to recoup the losses suffered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced major countdown events to be canceled for two years in a row. 

Bucking the wave of anxiety over the princess’ health, some prominent tourism and trade organisations are adamant that the show must go on. 

An official for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, or TAT, said its New Year countdown festivals – typically a large crowd drawer in pre-pandemic years – will be held as planned. “We will not cancel it,” an aide to TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.

She added that Yuthasak himself will make a formal announcement over the matter on Friday. 

The Khaosan Road Business Association also said a countdown party will once again make a return to the famed backpacker street after a two-year hiatus.

“The Prime Minister didn’t order any ban on it,” association president Sa-nga Ruangwatthanakul quipped when asked whether the street party will still take place this year. 

He said the festival will be a welcome boost to Khaosan Road businesses which bore the brunt of economic hardship during the pandemic years. 

“Many Thai people haven’t had a chance to celebrate a New Year’s Eve countdown for 2 years now,” said Sa-nga, who has been vocal in pushing for business reopenings. “And tourists don’t care about COVID anymore. I believe that it’ll be a lively event.” 

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