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14 dead, 150 injured during Thingyan

A scene from Thingyan 2017 in Mandalay. (PHOTO: DVB)

Fourteen people died in incidents related to this year’s Thingyan Water Festival in Burma, while at least 150 were injured, according to an announcement by the national police.

The data covered the four days of public holiday from 13–16 April, a period renowned for accidents and violent incidents, mostly attributed to fighting and drunk driving.

Monday’s statement attributed seven of the deaths to vehicle accidents and the other seven to “criminal activities”.

According to the report, at around midday on April 15 was the time when the highest rate of incidents occurred – no less than 72 nationwide.

Police recorded 147 criminal incidents, including violence, theft and pick-pocketing, during the annual New Year’s festivities.

Rangoon had the highest number of cases with 22, while Mandalay had 17, the police report said.

News group The Voice reported that during Thingyan, more than 700 patients were admitted to Rangoon Hospital alone, though there was no breakdown of that figure.

Many critics have opined that the Thingyan Water Festival has lost much of its traditional Buddhist base – the time of year when families come together, visit temples, pray, clean their houses, and pay respects to the elderly. Instead, they say, drunken revelry and sexual posturing has taken over, with many youths oblivious to the cultural roots of the annual festival.

In neighbouring Thailand, similar sentiments exist surrounding the New Year water fights. The Thai military government announced this year that alcohol sales would be banned in public areas, and there was a mass crackdown on youths dancing provocatively or wearing revealing clothing.

According to the Bangkok Post, nearly 300 people were killed and 3,000 injured across the country in driving accidents alone.