The state-level military junta is moving ahead with plans to hold limited festivities for the upcoming Thingyan holiday, after celebrations were cancelled the previous two years due to the pandemic and conflict between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army.
Dr. Aung Kyaw Min, chair of the Arakan State Administration Council, said unofficial discussions were had about bringing the Thingyan festival back to Arakan State this year because COVID-19 infections are in decline and no clashes have taken place in the state for months.
“We discussed not building a central pandal,” he said, referring to the temporary stages that are erected as a focal point of water festival entertainment in normal years.
“We will build a ward-level pandal where we will place a long boat to contain water to splash each other in Arakanese traditional style. Each boat will be 6 feet apart from each other. Additionally, the ceremony to grind scented sandalwood will be held in about 10 wards. However, the meeting did not make any [official] decisions.”
Details will be discussed in the first week of April after forming committees to organise the Thingyan festivities, he added.
Official Thingyan celebrations were not held in 2019 due to conflict between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army, nor did they take place last year amid growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ma Oo Khaing Thein, spokesperson for the Rakhine Youth New Generation Network, said she did not welcome plans to hold Thingyan festivities in Arakan State at a time when the nation is convulsed by protests and violent crackdowns by security forces in response. The military seized power on February 1, and more than a month and a half later, demonstrations against the putsch continue.
“The current political situation is not stable following the military coup,” she said. “As a Myanmar citizen, though I am living in Arakan State, I do not want to hold the Thingyan festival at such an important time on humanitarian grounds.”