The coronavirus pandemic has dried up New Year celebrations in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, a Southeast Asian tradition where people celebrate by dousing each other with water during the hottest time of the year, metaphorically washing away the sins of the past 12 months, with small numbers openly defying lockdown orders. Government-mandated lockdowns to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, or COVID-19, in all three predominantly Buddhist countries mean revelers must stay inside and forego visits to temples and street festivals during the beloved public holiday.
Myanmar’s Buddhist New Year festival, Thingyan, which officially runs April 13-16 this year, is distinguished by water-throwing during the roughly weeklong public holiday. People in major cities, such as the commercial hub Yangon, use hoses and large syringes made of bamboo and plastic to drench their fellow citizens and visitors.
But the Myanmar government put an early end to that on March 13 when it announced a ban on public gatherings, including during Thingyan, until April 30, saying that the suspension period would be extended as needed.