Lottery-Mad Myanmar Public looks back at state competitions under the junta


A man walks past trucks selling national lottery tickets in Yangon in 2018.

Through The Irrawaddy August 19, 2021

For the first time in its 143-year long history, Myanmar’s national lottery is being boycotted by the public, as the Burmese people refuse to make any kind of payment to the military regime which seized power in a coup. Status February 1.

As part of a broader civil disobedience movement against the regime, the public boycotted all payment, including paying taxes and utility bills and buying lottery tickets.

As a result, the regime was recently forced to postpone the lottery draw and reduce the top prize from 1.5 billion kyat (approximately US $ 911,000) to 500 million kyat. He was also unable to pay the full prizes to the winners due to lack of cash.

Once commonplace, lottery shops and lottery ticket vendors have now disappeared across the country, reflecting strong public opposition to the regime and marking a significant milestone in Myanmar State Lottery history.

A Myanmar national lottery ticket in 2020.

According to historical records, the first state lottery was introduced in 1878 when Myanmar’s last monarch, King Thibaw, ascended to the throne. He was extremely popular with the public, as only 10,000 kyat of the 60,000 kyat sales revenue went to the Mandalay court treasury; the rest was distributed as a prize.

No wonder the people of Mandalay were drawn to buy lottery tickets, as the first person to win the top prize, Mi Ohn, paraded the town on an elephant, the royal defender reserved for members of the royal family and to high-ranking ministers of the time. However, the lottery became so popular that people did not engage in other ventures, forcing King Thibaw to stop the lottery in 1881.

The king even canceled taxes for the subjects who fell into poverty due to buying too many lottery tickets and paid their lottery related debts for them, leading the Burmese to say that ” the king would pay for you if you were in debt. “

There was no lottery in the decades following the British occupation of all of Myanmar and the sending of King Thibaw into exile. The current lottery was introduced in 1938, shortly before World War II, when the British wanted to increase their income in colonial Myanmar (then Burma). Once again, the people of urban and rural Myanmar have gone crazy about the lottery. The first winner of the first prize was U Ne of Thaton in Mon State.

Anti-colonial activists tried to persuade people not to buy lottery tickets, but few were able to resist their appeal. In successive periods after Myanmar’s independence, the public continued to indulge in fantasies of winning lucrative prizes.

Its popularity increased further when the jackpot was raised to 1.5 billion kyat under the since ousted National League for Democracy government, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Back then, lottery shops were rife in crowded intersections, and lottery ticket vendors pushing their carts through the streets while playing loud music.

Things have completely turned around since the February 1 military coup, as people began boycotting military-related products and payments to the regime after killing hundreds of pro-democracy protesters. The vast majority of the population has boycotted the state lottery since it was taken over by the military regime led by Chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

As the popularity of the state lottery, known as Aung Bar Lay, waned, the National Unity Government (NUG) formed by the ousted NLD government and other ethnic representatives announced in April. a plan to organize his own lottery to raise funds for officials who are on strike in protest against the regime.

The “Spring of Victory” lottery, named after Myanmar’s popular revolution against the junta, was launched on August 15. The 50,000 tickets on sale were sold out in just over an hour on launch day despite official threats from the regime to punish anyone who gambles. And people bought the tickets not for the money, but for the merit.

On August 18, four days after the launch of the Victorious Spring Lottery, the junta-controlled Aung Bar Lay Lottery Department announced that lottery prizes would drop from 60% of sales revenue to 70%. And the prices will be paid in full at once; previously, those who won large prizes received their jackpots in installments. Many believe the move is meant to compete with the NUG lottery. It remains to be seen whether people will buy Aung Bar Lay lottery tickets, despite the regime’s promotional efforts. The military regime ignores – or at least pretends to ignore – that people are not playing its lottery not because the prices are low, but out of determination to show their opposition to the military in any way they can. The fact that the public is boycotting the state lottery for the first time in 143 years shows how much people hate Min Aung Hlaing’s regime.


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