I t has been reported that over last month’s Thingyan holiday period, which officially ran for 3 days between April 13 and 16, a total of 285 people died and 1,200 crimes were reported to local authorities across the country. Yangon Region saw the highest number of Thingyan festival cases with 44 deaths and 223 crimes being reported. The numbers for this year show an increase of 13 deaths and 233 other crimes over the 2016 holiday total. The cases this year included pick-pocketing, intentionally causing injury by individual or group fights, road accidents, drug seizures and homicide.
The rise in crime over this year’s festive period must have come as a disappointment to Yangon Region chief minister Pyo Min Thein, who caused controversy when he placed a ban on large scale, for-profit water pavilions and sound stages, ostensibly to provide relief to people who have come to feel that “Thingyan is not for them”, as he put it. It’s not enitrely clear what the chief minister meant by this statement. The water stages, which for the last few years have been constructed at major public destinations such as Inya and Kandawgyi Lake and at various inner-city locales, have proved wildly popular with revellers, attracting huge crowds and were incredibly profitable for event companies and their sponsors. The minister’s words do speak, however, to the strong unease many people feel toward how Thigyan is changing into a binge party within major cities of the country and how authorities are at a loss as to how to control the emergence of party culture and the swelling crowds.