Monday, 29 March 2010 12:07 Khaing Suu
New Delhi (Mizzima) - Strict rules are being enforced by Burmese authorities in the construction of Thingyan (Water Festival) pavilions, according to builders.
Rules state every pavilion must be decorated with traditional designs to make it obvious that the celebration is a traditional undertaking. Moreover, a traditional dancing group and a decorated car from every pavilion must participate in city competitions.
“When we applied for the permit to build a Thingyan pavilion at the office of the District Peace and Development Council, the local authorities told us that they would ban alcohol and cigarette advertisements. Moreover, they ordered that every club must organize a traditional dancing team and make a decorated car. And we must compete in the opening and closing ceremonies at City Hall. In earlier years we celebrated relatively freely. We are disappointed with the strict restrictions this year,” said a youth who applied for a permit.
A Rangoon district official told Mizzima, “Anyone who wants to build a Thingyan pavilion wider than 40 feet must organize a traditional dancing team and make a decorated car. And they must compete in the opening and closing ceremonies at City Hall. ”
In the application form many rules are prescribed, including disallowing alcohol, cigarette and other advertisements not suitable to Burmese culture. Names of pavilions must suit Burmese culture as well and not be in English.
A young person planning to participate in the Water Festival said, “We want to dance freely with international modern music. Now, we have to play Burmese songs at the pavilions. So, we feel uneasy. Anyway, I’ll participate in the Water Festival.”
According to youth who are building a Thingyan pavilion, the number of pavilions in Rangoon this year may be less than last year not only because of increased restrictions, but also due to advertising sponsors wanting to support the Naypyitaw Thingyan Festival.
A youth commented, “It’s very difficult to find sponsors this year. They want to sponsor the Naypyitaw Thingyan Festival. They are giving 10 million kyats to Naypyitaw. We got five million kyats last year. But we will get just two million kyats this year. We lost at the last Thingyan and we will lose again this year. Our pavilion has a good public image so we continue. With little sponsor money we can’t build pavilions on Inya Road and University Avenue Road.”
Some Rangoon residents feel that the restrictions are intended to make the Naypyitaw festival more appealing than Rangoon events.
A young woman told Mizzima, “We used to celebrate on Inya Road every year. This year we are reluctant because building pavilions are not allowed on Inya Road. That means they want Naypyitaw Thingyan to be more alive than Rangoon Thingyan. Moreover, there is not enough water except around Inya Road.”
When Mizzima asked the opinions of young people in Rangoon, many wanted to go to a Vipassana meditation camp or to famous Pagodas for pilgrimage; opting not to participate in the Water Festival.
A youth from Hlaing Township explained, “We will not go to Naypyitaw. Though most vocalists will be in Nayypitaw at Thingyan time, I will be happy anywhere in Thingyan. If I go there, it will cost more money. Moreover, Naypyidaw will be very hot then.”
Government employees in Naypyitaw under the age of 35 are being restricted in their travels, further encouraging the Naypyitaw events to draw a larger crowd.
A brother of an employee from the Ministry of Information said, “My brother will be allowed to come back. But, young people who are under 35 are not allowed to go back to their places.”
A guesthouse owner in Naypyitaw added, “Yes, young employees are not allowed to go back. My sister cannot go back to Rangoon. She is from the Ministry of Energy. She must participate in the traditional dancing.”
Locals in Naypyitaw are reporting pavilions being built in the hotel zone and junctions of the new administrative capital.