This week, we discuss the lifting of economic sanctions by the European Union and the severe drought in the Lake Inle region that is disrupting tourism as well as the lives of local people. We also mention the significant increase in passport applications by the Burmese people. Finally, we report on the Thingyan Water Festival that took place earlier in April.
The European Union, like the United States some time ago, lifted economic sanctions on Burma. Their hope is that the lifting of the sanctions and the inflow of foreign investments will encourage human rights progress and “will lead to more effort from the government to address attacks on the country’s Muslim minority.” However, there is a need to create conditions likely to make the country attractive and foreign investors are facing a major issue: a real estate bubble. Indeed, “until recently, there were not a lot of options for investment. Sanctions made it difficult to invest outside the country, and there was no domestic stock market to speak of.” The real estate market was therefore the best option for profit making. Consequently, further reforms are indispensable in order to allow foreign investors to purchase land in the same way as Burmese entrepreneurs. Given the escalating price of accommodation and the lack of hotel rooms and appropriate infrastructure, the stakes are high in order not to affect the current tourism boom in Burma.
Drought at Inle Lake
“Drought has returned to Inle Lake, the famed tourist destination in Burma’s southern Shan State.” The situation is worsening every year. Environmentalists affirm that due to climate change and the deforestation of surrounding lands, the lake could disappear completely in the near future. This is particularly worrying for both locals and travelers. The local population is suffering from serious shortage of clean water supplies. “We could not get enough fresh water from the spring as water flow is reduced due to a pile of soil waste that was bulldozed for the hotel zone project.” For tourists, visiting this beautiful site gets dangerous as the boats cannot reach the pagoda and they have to walk in the mud or cross over from boat to boat. U Damadaza, the abbot of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda denounced the inaction of the authorities.
Burmese Traveling Abroad
“The number of Burmese people applying for passports has increased remarkably this summer.” The time frame for providing these documents has been significantly reduced and now it takes only ten days (instead of a month previously). This article asserts that because of the recent increase in race riots, Chinese and Indians ethnic minorities are among those who applied the most for passports.
In addition, “tourists from Burma are among travelers of 11 nations who are now eligible for visa on arrival to India. The policy applies for arrivals at the Goa, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi airports.”
Last but not least, here are some of the stories from the Water Festival. The Thingyan Water Festival is “considered to be the grandest since it is deemed to bring peace and prosperity to the people of Myanmar. The water throwing symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins.” However, this year, due to the recent ethnic conflicts that have shaken the country, security had been seriously strengthened to prevent any spillover of violence. The number of police officers has significantly increased at various openings of the Festival in Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. Cameras have also been installed around the most prestigious water-throwing pandals (temporary temples erected for the occasion). Nonetheless, the atmosphere was bathed in festivities, with “water-splashing spree, exchanges of well wishes between the elderly and the young and family get-togethers.” It also features a wide variety of musical and theatrical performances.
Besides, “ethnic groups in the country also have preserved some their own unique styles in celebrating the water festival.” Our second article portrays how the three major events of one of the most oldest and traditional Water Festival, the Rakhine Water Festival, take place. Since 2004, the Rakhine Water Festival, previously exclusively in Rakhine State in practice, is also organised in Yangon, “with the goal of safeguarding the Rakhine cultural heritage that has all but disappeared.” We invite you to discover further those traditions that have joyfully enlightened the life of the Burmese people during four days.
Finally, for those who did not have the opportunity to attend the festival, we invite you to enjoy these beautiful and striking pictures!
Have all a good week!Weekly EcoBurma Roundup #37,