Last year’s Thingyan celebrations were cancelled in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division, after deadly riots devastated the town. Residents still reeling from the incident await this year’s water festival with extra enthusiasm.
In 2013, celebrations were quashed by a curfew that effectively banned gatherings of more than five people following anti-Muslim violence that left dozens killed and around 10,000 displaced.
Htet Linn Khine, a Meikhtila-based member of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, said pavilions where revelers gather to “play water” were being constructed across the town. Residents are planning a big celebration.
“Meikhtila will see a big celebration for Thingyan this year – a meeting was held recently with local community leaders to set up pavilions in every ward,” said Htet Linn Khine.
In addition to pavilions in each of the 14 wards, a large stage is being built in the downtown area to act as “party-central”. Traditional dance performances have been scheduled throughout the week.
Tin Maung Soe, the government administrator of Meikhtila district, said authorities have been hard at work on security preparations.
“We have thoroughly coordinated with the police and local ward administrators for security measures,” he said.
“Now that that the situation is calm, we have decided to allow the celebrations,” he added, noting that tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in the town have dissipated.