Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 08 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 09 2023
Thingyan Festival, which became a political battle in Myanmar; Local people in border areas and ethnic areas fleeing war
Exactly 10 days of Thingyan holidays have started today, Saturday, April 8. During the previous military regime, Thingyan holidays were set for 10 days, but under the NLD government, the 10 days of Thingyan holidays were reduced to 5 days due to difficulties for businesses, and the remaining 5 days were made holidays during the Thadingyut and Tazaungdaing festivals. After the coup, it was changed back to a 10-day holiday as it was during the previous military regime and U Thein Sein’s regime.
There was no time when the Thingyan Festival was not held until April 2020 for several decades. But, after the United Nations Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic a global pandemic in March 2023, the NLD government at that time announced that the 2020 Thingyan, which is celebrated with crowds, would not be held, and the public followed the government’s order and did not celebrate it due to the once-in-a-lifetime fatal infectious disaster.
From the next year, 2021, Thingyan became a political topic, and the shadow of politics also fell on festivals like Thingyan. Politics and Thingyan became inseparable.
I noticed that 2020 Thingyan was not held in almost all cities and towns, but it was held in some border areas and some ethnic areas where there is no risk of COVID infection. More than 2 months after the military coup in 2021, Thingyan is politically boycotted, and I did not see that the military council tried to hold it for political gain and spreading propaganda.
Last year, in 2022, the military council held the Thingyan festival for political purposes to show that they could maintain the normal situation in the country, and the anti-military council forces issued warnings not to participate in the Thingyan festival. Before the event, some warning explosions occurred near the Thingyan pavilions, and some urban guerrilla groups conducted them to prevent the military council from celebrating the Thingyan festival.
The singers and actors who were invited to sing at the Thingyan concerts would be considered politically supportive of the military council, so they did not participate, and most of them avoided it.
While there are fighting, massacres, and hundreds of millions of people fleeing the war and leaving their homes all over the country, the question of whether city-dwellers who are not in such a situation should participate in the celebration is on one hand, and on the other hand, they want to participate and see it as an opportunity to work and run a business since Thingyan is traditionally celebrated and only occurs once a year.
People who live in big cities and townships have some differences of opinion on whether or not to participate in Thingyan, but for those who live in the area where the armed conflict is taking place, rather than a difference of opinion, it was a situation where they had to flee from the village, taking what they could take with them, due to the fall of heavy artillery shells and fighting in their villages. In Karen State’s Myawaddy Township, Sagaing Division’s Indaw, Banmauk, Kalay Township, and Shan State’s Naungcho Township, local villagers are fleeing their homes and trying to flee the war. It is also a time when it is more important to escape from danger than Thingyan occasion.
The Thingyan occasion is the same for everyone. However, the conditions people experience depend entirely on the area they live in.