The education department in Chin State’s Matupi Township issued a directive in March requiring all of its staff members, including teachers, to organize and perform a Thingyan dance, or else face disciplinary action.
The teachers were also required to attend practice sessions for five hours every day in the weeks leading up to the Thingyan festival. According to a Facebook post by the Chin news site Zalen Thuthang, the requirement for civil servants to participate in Thingyan festivities is common, even in Christian-majority Chin State.
A collective Chin political parties and civil society groups submitted a letter to the Chin State government on April 2, pointing out that both Myanmar’s constitution and its membership in the International Labor Organization prohibit forced labor.
Zalen Thuthang writes that the Chin State government responded by banning township departments from forcing their staff to participate in Thingyan festivities, starting this year.
Though the dispute appears to be over, it has stoked the frustrations of Myanmar citizens who feel marginalized by the country’s Bamar-Buddhist majority.