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Thousands on Rangoon streets for

Subject: Thousands on Rangoon streets for            Burmese new year

Thousands on Rangoon streets for
           Burmese new year

           RANGOON, April 14 (AFP) - Thousands of Burmese New Year revellers
           took to the streets of Rangoon Monday for the annual four-day
water festival
           amid high security in the capital.

           Traditional water-throwing festivities went ahead, although the
number of
           revellers was down on previous years following anti-Moslem unrest
in March
           and a mail bomb attack on the home of a top junta general last week,
           observers said.

           A witness said armed riot police with bullet proof vests were on
duty behind
           the closed gates of the home ministry, where the water-throwing
platform, or
           pandal, had been dismantled. There were unconfirmed reports of a
bomb scare
           at the ministry last week.

           Most government pandals were dismantled days before festivities
for the
           Burmese New Year on April 17 began.

           Uniformed police manned the few remaining ones and also guarded
the private
           pandals of high government officials, witnesses said.

           These included the pandal called "Barrack Brats" on Rangoon's
Prome Road,
           belonging to the family of former Burmese strongman Ne Win, and
that of
           intelligence chief Khin Nyunt, where a hired foreign musical
troop played for

           While the security did not dampen the spirits of young people on
the streets,
           there were none of the heavy traffic usually associated with the
Thingyan water
           festival, as many people stayed at home.

           "This is especially true of the Moslem community whose younger
people are
           usually in the thick of the water-dousing and carousing with the
rest," one
           Moslem source said.

           Because of fears of renewed religious unrest, young members of
most Moslem
           families have stayed in their community mosques since the
festivities started and
           will stay out of view until new year comes, he said.

           "They sleep there and are fed there and are being kept busy with
           studies," he added.

           Last month, mosques and Moslem properties were attacked by Buddhist
           monks, after unrest which started in the northern city of
Mandalay spread to
           other cities, including Rangoon.

           The source said that an Islamic religious festival, which had
coincided with
           Burmese New Year's Day on April 17, had been shifted to the
following day.

           Moslem leaders had also decided to forego the traditional culling
and feasting
           of livestock for "Bakhri Eid" because of religious tension, he added.