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Thingyan restrictions force party organisers to look for loopholes

Locals ride in vehicles get sprayed with water while celebrating Thingyan, Burma's New Year water festival. (Reuters)

Disgruntled organisers are desperately seeking loopholes to sidestep the Rangoon ban on commercial water stages, known as manduts, for the upcoming Thingyan water festival.

The ban, announced last week by the Rangoon Division government, has forced enterprising organisers to approach owners of private properties, offering cash in exchange for permission to set up water stages in popular party areas of the city.

“Since the only manduts that are allowed now are those set up by families on their own property, organisers are now reaching out to landlords to rent spaces in front of their private properties,” said one mandut manager.

But the new arrangement doesn’t come cheap, they say.

An “agent” who acts as a middleman between landlords and organisers said some property owners are demanding millions of kyat in exchange for the leasing rights. “I am now looking for a landlord for a friend of mine. The prices they are asking are too high,” he said.

Another organiser said that ticket prices will also likely be higher to ensure that organisers make a profit.

Despite the discontent, some suburban Rangoon residents are hopeful that the new rules mean that Thingyan will spread throughout the city again, rather than stay concentrated in the mandut hotspots.

“With the commercial manduts competing for profit, revelers were only attracted to those main areas, leaving suburban areas completely dry and looking nothing like Thingyan,” said a local businessman.

Many businesses across the city also set up stages for their employees to enjoy, but the new restrictions prevent businesses from doing so anywhere other than on company property.