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Security to be stepped up for water festival

A file photo shows sodden police officers patrolling the streets during Thingyan. (Photo: Reuters)

The Rangoon police force are stepping up security ahead of celebrations for the Buddhist New Year water festival next month.

The chief of Rangoon police’s 2nd division said 7,000 regional police officers will be assigned to two rotating groups throughout the holiday, known in Burmese as Thingyan.

“For security in the days ahead of Thingyan, we are taking pre-emptive measures such as conducting searches, checking guest registrations and imposing restrictions on known criminals such as putting them under area limitations,” said Police Colonel Win Bo.

The festival in mid-April attracts young people from Rangoon and the surrounding areas into the city centre for a giant water fight. However, over the years police say the activities have become more reckless.

The police say they will crack down on drunken, unruly behaviour and will investigate possible moonshine joints and liquor stores not complying with regulations.

“We will also educate pharmaceutical stores to prevent them dealing in illegal sex performance pills,” said Win Bo.

The traffic police division in Rangoon is also planning to assign 900 personnel to tackle road congestion during Thingyan.

Tow trucks will be on standby at the busy Kabaraye, Kokkine, Hledan and Myenigon junctions, on the road around Kandawgyi Lake, and at City Hall.

The traffic police also said they will be targeting drunk driving and passengers sitting illegally on top of vehicles.

“Based on our experience last year, there were many traffic accidents caused by trucks carrying more people than their capacity,” said Police Major Than Myint of the 6th Traffic Police Division said.

Judicial offices in the region will also remain open 24 hours a day during the festival.

“Of the 45 townships in Rangoon Region, judicial offices will open in 44 townships with the exception of Coco Island,” said Myint Than, a lawyer at the Rangoon Attorney General’s Office.

The judicial offices received 511 cases during last year’s Thingyan and so far 480 of those have been resolved.