Thailand’s Big Mountain Music Festival shut down early due to COVID-19 concerns

But some believe the shutdown was really due to political reasons

Thailand’s Big Mountain Music Festival, which took place last weekend, was forced to shut down earlier than expected over concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The festival, which drew an estimated total of 80,000 festival-goers to Nong Nam Daeng’s The Ocean Khao Yai over the course December 12 and 13, was ordered to shut down early on Sunday afternoon, according to a Coconuts Bangkok report.

The closure order, as noted by the Bangkok Post, claims that health authorities who were present at the festival to monitor safety measures set in place had found the venue to be “overcrowded with many not following mandatory face mask stipulations”.

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Festival organisers reportedly filed an appeal to keep the show going before being forced to shut down at 10pm, hours ahead of schedule.

The organisers took to social media on Sunday to announce Big Mountain’s early closure due to an official order from government authorities. Following that, the organisers announced they would offer refunds, requests for which will be entertained from December 18 to 28.

ขอขอบคุณเพื่อนโคทุกคนที่อยู่กันมาถึง 11 ปี…

Posted by Big Mountain Music Festival on Sunday, December 13, 2020

Provincial health authorities have filed a police complaint against the organisers of Big Mountain Music Festival over their decision to keep the show going while they negotiated with officials over the shutdown, the Bangkok Post reported.

Yesterday, both GMM Grammy – the Thai media conglomerate that promoted the festival – and lead organiser Yuthana Boonorm issued apologies over the premature shutdown.

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“I could not manage everything as planned, especially measures to prevent COVID-19 that should have been more stringent and carried out with better efficiency,” Boonorm wrote, as the Bangkok Post notes.

While Big Mountain Music Festival was officially ordered closed due to pandemic concerns, some commenters are claiming the closure was due to political reasons. As Coconuts Bangkok and Khaosod note, many of the festival’s performers spoke out in support of the pro-democracy protests against the Thai government.

As Khaosod notes, the frontman of the popular band Tilly Birds had declared onstage, “Don’t let a horrible system define Thailand. Raise up three fingers!”

The three-finger symbol has been adopted by pro-democracy parties in Thailand since the country’s protests began in July this year.

Democratic party Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome tweeted on Monday morning: “They are not afraid of the spread of COVID. But fear of the spread of democratic ideas that will destroy dictatorship, let 2021 be the year of the beginning of democracy.”

Following the festival’s shutdown, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in a statement to the press that he is not opposed to enforcing the emergency decree that would prohibit the assembly of more than five people in the country.

“What should we do if we have an outbreak after the concert in Nakhon Ratchasima? Or an outbreak after a concert in Bangkok. What should we do? It’s all back to lockdown. So, everyone needs to help. The emergency decree is needed when necessary,” he said.

The fallout from Big Mountain Music Festival reportedly led organisers of the Bao Khao Kho concert, due to happen next month at the Birdland Resort in Khao Kho district, to axe their own event out of concerns they would not be able to comply with health regulations and social distancing guidelines.

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