Burma’s annual New Year’s water festival reflects the country’s growing disparities – even in romance.

Thingyan, Burma’s annual New Year’s water festival is a time of cleansing. It is also a time of unequal love.

So observes ANU PhD scholar Jacqueline Menager who is currently in Myanmar undertaking fieldwork and was there to soak up the action from this year’s celebrations.

Reporting for the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, Menager observes that “Thingyan has become virtually unrecognisable from its traditional roots as a cleansing Burmese New Year’s celebration”.

“But among all the changes to Thingyan remains one key feature; it is the site of new relationships,” she writes.

Thingyan is a time of opportunity for young people looking for love for obvious reasons: partying, wet clothes, excessive alcohol and low inhibitions. In the context of Myanmar’s conservative society it makes even more sense; it is perhaps the only time of the year when almost all single young women and men will be out looking for fun and partners.

“The promise of long- term love, not to discount the short-term encounter, is enough to jolt discontented partners. It’s a new year, and freshly cleansed of sins young men are ready for a new girlfriend… or two.”

But those looking for love, don’t always have the same arrows to draw upon when it comes to Cupid’s bow – with elites and VIPs having a little more in their quiver than ordinary folk.

It’s reflective of Myanmar’s past and a reminder of its possible future.

Read the full article at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific website.