6 June 2024

As soon as the Myanmar service of the BBC reported that Thailand’s traditional Songkran New Year festival has already been submitted to UNESCO for inclusion on the World Heritage List, there was an outpour of emotion. 

Many commentators took the news, that Thailand is now waiting for the approval by UNESCO to include Songkran as an intangible cultural heritage, rather badly.

BBC Burmese, quoting a report from The Nation, said that the Khon dance drama genre, traditional Thai massage, a form of dance theatre and improvisational singing called Nora and Songkran are to be included in the World Heritage list, if the approval comes through at the end of this year.

Arguments rage online that, whilst several South-East Asian countries share a similar form of New Year celebration, it should not be Thailand’s alone, many argue that there are historical differences and unique identities pertaining to each country. Many lament the fact that, while neighbouring nations, such as Thailand, are making efforts to protect and enrich their own culture, Myanmar remains locked in internal strife.

“It’s no surprise at all. If you go to Thailand, they practice and protect their cultural events very carefully. Most of the time, in Myanmar, when it’s Thingyan (the Myanmar water festival), it’s just a massive excuse for a party, to get drunk and be indecent,” wrote a commenter.

“This is what happens when the authorities fail to do their due diligence. It was the same with the Thanakha (a paste made from ground bark) a couple years ago. It is sad, but just give it all to the Thais, we don’t deserve them,” wrote another.

There were also comments from users claiming to be Cambodians, further adding fuel to the division regarding this issue.