To end a year charged with change, Myanmar enjoyed yet another first: a public countdown to the New Year.
Such gatherings were heavily restricted under the military government that once ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma. But as the country emerges from totalitarian rule, gradually embracing reforms until recently unthinkable, Myanmar celebrated the new year as never before.
“This is very exciting. … We feel like we are in a different world,” university student Yu Thawda told the Associated Press at the Monday countdown. An estimated 90,000 people packed a Yangon field, the news agency reported, dancing and reveling under a bloom of fireworks.
The countdown was only the second time that Myanmar has hosted a public entertainment event, Irrawaddy magazine reported, just a few weeks after pop star Jason Mraz played in Yangon. Though youths used to gather at Inya Lake to mark the new year, brawls led the military government to ban the gatherings, the magazine said.