Today marks the first official day of Songkran here in Thailand, though kids started pulling out the buckets of water and super soakers yesterday morning. Burma celebrates a very similar festival this week, called Thingyan. Traditionally Thingyan is supposed to be as rambunctious and carefree as Songkran, but the military government has decided to take control of how the populace should “have fun” this week. The SPDC has imposed a number of rules and restrictions on the festivities (though the top generals and their families are of course exempt):
According to YCDC restrictions, pavilions must be given Burmese names, pavilion decorations must be designed to showcase Burmese art and culture, pavilion workers and guests must wear traditional Burmese clothing, pavilions must only serve traditional Burmese food and pavilion workers and guests must dance in a manner that reflects Burmese culture.
In Bangkok, we’ll see if Songkran helps cool the fervor of the ongoing protests, which we are following from afar hear in the north. The protests certainly illustrate a difference between the Thai and Burmese governments use of force. While Prime Minister Abhisit has been emphatic about the use of non-violent methods for breaking up the protests, history has shown that any similar political display in Burma would have been awash in a sea of blood after the army busted out their machine guns.
We’re about to head out to Lauren’s office for a day of splashing, snacks, and swimming. Then tomorrow morning we are off to Pai to meet up with a few other AJWS volunteers for the remainder of the three-day holiday. We’ll be back here on Friday to meet up with Lauren’s family, who have escaped the red-shirt madness of Bangkok and are currently splashing around on Ko Tao.