Mandalay to Limit Private Thingyan Pavilions

By Myat Pyae Phyo 26 January 2017

MANDALAY —Taking its cue from Rangoon, Burma’s last royal city Mandalay will impose a partial ban on for-profit pavilions during Thingyan celebrations in April and encourage the public to celebrate the water festival in a simple, traditional way.

The decision is a sweep of the new broom from the new Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC), which was sworn in this month.

MCDC aims to resurrect the traditional way of celebrating Thingyan and will seek the approval of the divisional government for the ban, said MCDC member U Kyaw Yin Myint.

“We don’t mean people have to wear traditional clothes and sprinkle water with a sprig of eugenia,” said U Kyaw Yin Myint, referring to Burma’s traditional way of throwing water at others during Thingyan dating back to the monarchial period.

Thingyan is Burma’s New Year festival celebrated for around five days in April by throwing water at one another.
“What we mean is we will make sure we hold a public Thingyan in which all people can participate—the festival has long been abused by some who profit from it,” he added, bemoaning excessive commercialization of the festival over the past decade.

MCDC will ban pavilions that block views of the city walls and moat and reduce spending on the Mandalay Mayor’s Pavilion by 90 percent.

“We’ll no longer allow big pavilions by the moat that spend a lot of both money and water. We’ll only allow [smaller] pavilions that reflect local culture. The Mayor’s Pavilion will not spend nine-digit figures on entertainment and singers like before,” he said.

According to the MCDC, the expenditure of the Mandalay Mayor’s Pavilion in 2016 totaled some 350 million kyats ($US250,000) and of some 44 pavilions permitted, 33 were built by the moat.

“Those who profit from Thingyan won’t like this plan,” said Hsu Ngat, a well-known local author in Mandalay, referring to pavilion organizers who sell tickets to revelers for between 100,000 and 200,000 kyats for the entire festival.

“But this is not rejecting the rights of the youth. Thingyan should be the festival that all can participate in equally,” Hsu Ngat told The Irrawaddy.

Ko Zin Maung, a 25-year-old Mandalay resident, who usually goes out with friends during Thingyan said, “I think young people would accept the traditional Thingyan if it was celebrated in a modernized way and enabled them to enjoy the atmosphere of old days.”

“Anyway, most young people enjoy every festival,” he added.

MCDC will permit small pavilions in the town and encourage enthusiasts from the city wards to perform at the Mayor’s Pavilion.

The Rangoon government imposed a ban on for-profit pavilions during Thingyan last year with the same intention.