By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Street vendors excluded from the new night market on Strand Road say they have been treated unfairly by the regional government and fear for their livelihoods as a plan to remove Yangon’s ubiquitous street-side traders begins to take effect.
The new market, which opened on November 23 and is managed by the Yangon City Development Committee, is part of a regional government plan devised by the previous administration to clear traffic congestion from the city’s clogged streets.
From the beginning of next month, vendors in downtown Yangon will face potential fines if they continue to operate on a number of major thoroughfares. Many of those forced to move have worked the same corners for decades.
U Moe Thu, an activist and former political prisoner, told a Tuesday press conference organised by disillusioned traders that the YCDC had given preference to wealthier vendors and had failed to provide enough space to accommodate all those displaced by the relocation plan.
“[The allocation of space] to the vendors is as if they have been selected as [officials] like, merely choosing rich people,” he said.
“The government, which we supported down to our little fingers, needs to look back to the everyday people. If the government oppresses the poor, then whomever is in power, we don’t accept them.”
U Ko Aung Aung, a street trader working in Lanmadaw Township, said that though there were around 7,000 street vendors working across the city, only 1,600 had been allocated space at the night market.
“We thought we would have justice in this age but it’s not like that,” he said.
Many vendors had petitioned for space at the market only to be brushed off by officials, Ko Aung Aung added.
Ko Than Oo, who told reporters he had worked as a downtown street vendor since 1982, said the plan to relocate merchants to the night market was misguided because most of the congestion problems had been caused by the massive uptake in private vehicle ownership.
“Parked cars in Lanmadaw have appeared everywhere like mushrooms appear in the soil,” he said, adding that the sheer number of new cars on the road in recent years had also crowded out street vendors.