Chins Forced to Contribute Money for Hakha Water Festival
14 April 2012: Local people and government employees in Hakha, Chin State have been forced to make financial contributions for holding Thingyan, the Burmese New Year Water Festival.
Each household in six wards of Hakha are forcibly asked to give the amount ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 kyats under the leadership of the Township Administration Office in association with wards committee members.
A Hakha local, whose name is kept anonymous, told Chinland Guardian: “In Pyidawta ward, families are collected between 1,500 and 2,000 kyats. Some families can afford only 1,000 but we don’t know what will happen to them.”
The Township Administration Office and committee members of wards in Hakha took responsibilities for organizing the Burmese event under the direct instructions of the government of Chin State, according to a source from the government.
Some government employees complained about the financial contributions demanded by the authorities, adding: “They cut the amount off our salaries in addition to a separate contribution made by our families.”
“We have got to make contributions in fear of the possible consequences. Some employees are not informed yet but they said they expected a salary cut at the end of this month,” said a government staff from the Township Admin Office.
A group of teenagers mostly under the age of 20 have been forced to participate in throwing water from the stage built on the main street during the water festival starting on 12 April.
“The money collected from the locals is also used for hiring vehicles to take a troupe of Thingyan dancers and family members of army soldiers residing on Mount Rungtlang to the town,” one of the youth leaders told Chinland Guardian.
The event has been taking place since last Thursday amid acute water shortages reported facing the local people in the capital of Chin State.
“Some of the water used for the Buddhist Thingyan is bought from a local company that provides washing services for bikes and cars in the Old Hakha ward. But I am not sure about the cost,” added the youth leader.
In the past, celebrations of the water festival in Hakha involved a forcible collection of money from the Chin locals, who are mostly Christians.
A water-throwing festival, better known in Burmese as ‘Thingyan‘, takes place over a period of four to five days normally starting from 12 to 16 April.
Comprised of six main wards such as Old Hakha, Dawrthar, Pyidawta, Dawrhlun, New Hakha and Cawbuk, Hakha has got an estimated population of over 20,000 with more than 2,480 houses, according to the 2008 Township Profiles by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang