Thai festival goers could face death penalty for releasing paper lanterns near airports

Authorities say floating lanterns have impacted air travel and caused delays

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The Independent Online

Festival-goers in Thailand could face the death penalty if they release sky lanterns near an airport as part of a major crack-down on an annual festival.

The annual Loy Krathong festival - which is sometimes translated as the "to float a basket" festival – sees millions gather near lakes, rivers and canals around the country to float rafts decorated with candles, incense and flowers.

The festival is celebrated at the end of the so-called ‘rainy season’ and marks the close of the main rice harvest season. 

Many will fly floating lanterns during the event, in the belief it can ward off bad luck.

But past incidents involving floating lanterns impacting air travel and causing delays have resulted in police threatening to invoke the ultimate penalty to prevent wayward lanterns being released near airports.

"Releasing paper lanterns near airports can be very dangerous to the safety of aircraft and it is a criminal offence," Police Major General Amnuay Nimmano told Reuters.

"Those who violate the law will be dealt with accordingly and could face life in prison or the death penalty."

Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways say they have adjusted their flight schedules and cancelled some flights to avoid any potential danger from floating lanterns.

Additional reporting by Reuters