Rangoon Chief Minister: Alcohol, For-Profit Pavilions Banned this Thingyan

By Moe Myint 24 March 2017

RANGOON — For-profit pavilions will definitely not be allowed in Rangoon during the upcoming water festival Thingyan, but private company entertainment venues will be granted in public areas such as People Park’s, Thuwunna football stadium and Shwe Htut Tin compound, said Rangoon Division Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein at a press conference on Friday.

The chief minister sought to clear up confusion over whether lucrative private pavilions would be allowed on the city’s main roads, after Rangoon government cabinet member Naw Pan Thinzar Myo and the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) told media earlier this week that they would be allowed.

He said that any private company wishing to establish an entertainment venue—holding dancing competitions or traditional Thingyan satirical shows, but not a water pavilion—would need to apply for a permit, follow rules and regulations laid down by the YCDC, and pay tax.

He emphasized that the regional government encouraged the public to celebrate the festival in a traditional way by making donations, helping others, and visiting pagodas, not focus on drinking alcohol, playing loud music, or instigating trouble.

“We will effectively take action against those who illegally sell alcohol during Thingyan,” he said.

The regional government has made moves to discourage alcohol-fueled pavilions charging 50,000 to 100,000 kyats for tickets.

U Phyo Min Thein said the ban on for-profit pavilions was “for people who have felt that Thingyan is not for them.”

“We are ending the situation whereby parents are horrified by witnessing their daughters on the pavilions,” he said.

Netizens—particularly the city’s youth—criticized the government’s approach of banning alcohol, calling it unrealistic and doubting that it could be wholly implemented.

The government should instead organize different entertainment venues to suit all citizens of the city to prevent quarrels, one Facebook user said.

Although for-profit pavilions were banned last year, Arakanese ethnic affairs minister U Zaw Aye Maung admitted that private shops selling alcohol and buckets of water in Thuwanna football stadium—regarded as the center of Arakanese Thingyan celebrations—were taxed one million kyats for the three days, but that this year the regional ethnic affairs ministry would sponsor Arakanese Thingyan in the commercial capital.

U Phyo Min Thein added that small private rooms behind pavilions were also banned and that authorities would install CCTV cameras and deploy uniformed and plain-clothed police officers to take action against those who breached the rules.

Red Cross members will keep people safe, particularly in respect to high summer temperatures, he said.

Pavilions would not be allowed on Inya Road and the routes around Kandawgyi Lake, due to the traffic congestion they cause, the chief minister added.

A central pavilion at City Hall sponsored by YCDC—likely to cost over 200 million kyats—will be built along with pavilions in four districts of Rangoon. The entertainment sections will be handled by individual townships including local lawmakers.

Local authorities will only censor Thangyat shows for hate speech, not if they are critical of the government, he said.

The government has currently received six proposals for big pavilions and other entertainment venues—all of which must abide by the 45 rules released on Thursday.

The regional government also plans to implement regulated “water times” between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in evening.