The military council forced locals to create hot air balloons for Taunggyi’s Tazaungdaing festival, according to residents of the Shan State capital. It was reported that the military council also forced ward administration offices to create balloons to represent each ward. Tazaungdaing annual light festival is famous for its hot air balloons. It celebrates the end of the country’s rainy season. Residents said that they have been pressured in various ways to draw bigger crowds to the junta-organized festival. The turnout was far lower than in previous years.
The festival ends on Nov. 9. The military council’s security forces arrested a resident who criticized the balloon festival on Facebook last week. Balloon festivals were also held in Mandalay’s Pwin Oo Lwin. The celebrations reportedly drew thousands of people. “We are holding our festival here but we are sorry for what is happening elsewhere. When we were preparing for the competition, we all worked alongside our worries,” Aung Myat Thu, a resident of Pyin Oo Lwin said. Tazaungdaing festivals were canceled both in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the military coup. The festival has been celebrated widely across Burma in the past.