Thingyan Deaths Halve in 2017

By Tin Htet Paing 18 April 2017

RANGOON — The number of deaths during this year’s water festival Thingyan fell by more than half compared to last year, according to figures revealed by police on Monday.

A total of 208 crimes related to the four-day celebrations of the Burmese New Year claimed 16 lives and injured 194 people, with the highest number of deaths and accidents reported in the former capital Rangoon, where two people died in homicides and three in road accidents, said the announcement.

An initial report by the Ministry of Information on Monday said that 1,200 crimes related to the festivities from April 13-16 killed 285 people and injured 1,073 others. However, these figures were not specific to Thingyan and encompassed all crime that happened in Burma throughout the four days.

As a result, many news outlets reported the erroneous figures. Editor U Than Oo of the state-run Myanmar News Agency told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday the ministry had “miscalculated” the data and confirmed the police’s figures were correct.

Thingyan celebrations were linked to 31 road accidents across all of Burma’s 14 divisions and states, killing seven people and injuring 110, according to police data. No deaths related to the festival were recorded in the country’s capital Naypyidaw, or in Karen and Chin states, Tenasserim or Pegu.

A total of 35 people died and 316 others were injured in last year’s Thingyan, which went on for five days.

According to a press conference held by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Mar. 29, the government deployed around 6,000 police officers for the annual water festival. The fire department, the Red Cross, and the health ministry assigned around 2,000 members to respond to emergency incidents.

Rangoon divisional chief minister U Phyo Min Thein and his cabinet members emphasized before the New Year holidays that the regional government would effectively take action against those who illegally sold alcohol during the festivities.

His ban on for-profit water pavilions was controversial among the public, especially as party stages at the usual flocking grounds for revelers—Inya Road and around Kandawgyi Lane—were no longer allowed.

He claimed the move was “for people who have felt that Thingyan is not for them,” encouraging the public to celebrate the festival in a “traditional” way instead of focusing on drinking alcohol and playing loud music from pavilions.

Mandalay’s Thingyan Walk along its 26th Street received praise from the public though it also imposed a partial ban on for-profit pavilions during the celebrations.