Myanmar to fete 2013 with first public countdown

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Workers prepare to set up a stage as preparations are underway for the country’s first ever public New Year’s countdown celebration, at Myoma grounds in Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Myanmar will ring in the new year with its first public countdown and a grand fireworks display Monday night in a celebration unprecedented in the former military-ruled country. AP/Khin Maung Win

YANGON, Myanmar– Myanmar will ring in the new year with its first public countdown and a grand fireworks display Monday night in a celebration unprecedented in the former military-ruled country.

It’s the latest, and perhaps most exuberant, example of the country’s emergence from decades of isolation.

Thousands were expected to attend the event at a large field in Yangon with a backdrop of the famed Shwedagon Pagoda, where the Myanmar public will get its chance to do what much of the world does every Dec. 31.

Singers, celebrities, light shows and other festivities were planned for the public party, which would have been unthinkable under the former military regime that banned public gatherings.

A large digital screen will show a live stream of New Year’s Eve countdowns in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand leading up to a 60-second countdown to 2013 in Myanmar.

Until this year, New Year’s Eve was celebrated privately or inside hotels but not with public fireworks and open celebration.

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